Guam sued for late mailing of ballots to troops and other overseas voters
October 7, 2010
TOKYO — The U.S. Department of Justice is suing Guam and its election officials because they failed to mail out absentee ballots for overseas voters – including servicemembers – for this November’s election by a Sept. 18 deadline.
The ballots were mailed in two batches — on Sept. 27 and Oct. 1 — and remain valid, according to John Blas, the executive director of the Guam Election Commission.
But those overseas voters must return completed ballots by the Nov. 2 Election Day to count because Guam law prevents counting votes that arrive after the polls close.
The Justice Department, in legal papers filed Wednesday in Hagatna, Guam, is asking the island to count overseas ballots returning to the island until Nov. 15.
Blas said the mailing delay came after the paper stock used for the ballots arrived on the island late.
“It caused a domino effect,” he said. “We just missed the deadline.”
The election includes an unopposed race for Guam’s only congressional seat, held by Democrat Madeleine Bordallo.
The Sept. 18 deadline is part of the new Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which requires that servicemembers and registered voters living overseas receive ballots 45 days before general elections.
On Guam, 83 servicemembers and 17 overseas residents applied for absentee ballots, Blas said. Some already have been contacted by phone and e-mail to see if they would like to vote electronically, an option under the new law.
It’s possible the local legislature could amend the existing law — pushing the count past Election Day — or the federal court could order the election commission to accept the ballots after Nov. 2, Blas said.
But until the legal matter is settled, the commission is bound by local law to cut off the voting after Election Day.
“We’re asking they do they best to get the ballot back by Nov. 2,” Blas said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon.