Concern raised about oversea absentee ballots
October 14, 2010 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether military personnel overseas received Illinois absentee ballots in time for their votes to count.
Ballots to military personnel and other Americans abroad were supposed to have been mailed by September 18. Now the U.S. Justice Department is investigating if that deadline was met across Illinois.
According to a report by the Illinois Board of Elections to the Department of Justice, 26 election boards in the state missed the deadline and another 21 did not reply to a status request.
Ray Parrish, a Vietnam veteran and 30-year activist with Chicago Veterans for Peace, said America's fighting men and women need their chance to vote
"This is the one chance, the one day out of the year they do feel in control and for a lot of veterans that feeling of helplessness is a very disabling feeling," said Parrish.
However, many Illinois troops stationed with the U.S. military around the world may receive their ballot for the midterm elections late. Under the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act -- or MOVE -- ballots had to be mailed by September 18 for the November 2nd election. In the Chicago region, Kane County missed the deadline and Will County did not respond to the justice department's request for an update.
"The feeling of betrayal and disillusionment that happens when you are not allowed to vote, when you are actually a participant in a war and the vote you are casting might have an effect on how that war is going to be prosecuted is very important," said Parrish.
State Republicans say this is a non-partisan issue and are calling on Democrats to back their demand that election boards allow extra time for military ballots to be counted. Currently, election boards have two weeks to receive and count ballots postmarked by Election DaY.
"The department of justice needs to get in here immediately and begin a full and thorough investigation... the DOJ also needs to do whatever it takes through the federal court system or whatever to extend the dates for these absentee ballots to be returned," said Pat Brady, Illinois Republican Party.
The Chicago Board of Elections said that with this year's early primary it had enough time and resources to finalize its ballot and send it out well before Labor Day. That is not the case in a range of Illinois jurisdictions.
"I am sure these election jurisdictions want to comply and want to serve the military, it is just difficult the election process is cumbersome," said Langdon Neal, Chicago Board of Election chairman.
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