U.S. Enters Accord With Vermont on Absentee Voter Ballots

The U.S. Justice Department and Vermont settled a lawsuit filed by the federal government questioning the state’s compliance with rules for the timely mailing of election ballots to military and overseas voters.

The U.S. Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act requires those ballots be mailed to voters who request them at least 45 days before an election for federal office.

A dispute over the Progressive Party’s gubernatorial primary results on Aug. 28 delayed completion of the Nov. 6 election ballot until Sept. 20. The Justice Department sued Oct. 11 after learning that at least 191 of the 894 absentee ballots -- requested by voters from 67 of the state’s 148 cities and townships -- were mailed late.

“If approved by the court, the agreement will provide additional time for receipt of absentee ballots to ensure eligible military and overseas voters who requested ballots will have sufficient time to vote in the general election,” the U.S. said yesterday in a statement announcing the accord.

The Justice Department had sought a federal court finding that Vermont officials had violated the federal law and an order requiring state officials to ensure that all absentee voters would have the statutory time period to return their ballots and that their votes for the Nov. 6 election would be counted.

Deadline Extension

Under the six-page accord filed with Chief U.S. District Judge Christina Reiss in Rutland, Vermont, the state will identify those voters whose ballots were sent late and extend their ballot-receipt deadline by 10 days and include them in any final election tally.

The state can certify election results as final as early as Nov. 13 if the number of ballots still outstanding couldn’t alter the outcome, according to settlement agreement.

Absentee voter ballots must be returned by Nov. 5, according to the agreement. Those voters will be contacted beforehand, if possible, and told of the mail-by date and extended deadline for receipt.

Keith Aten, an attorney in the office of Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment after regular business hours.

The case is U.S. v. State of Vermont, 12-cv-236, U.S. District Court, District of Vermont (Rutland).

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