The U.S. Justice Department is investigating allegations the state of Illinois failed to comply with a federal law requiring early mailing of ballots to military personnel overseas, a local radio station reported Thursday.
Cris Cray, Director of Legislation at the Illinois State Board of Elections, told WLS-AM 890 that some of the state's 110 congressional districts may have missed a deadline imposed by 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE).
The federal law requires every state to mail their absentee ballots to overseas military personnel and other American voters 45 days prior to elections.
At present, the station reported, Cray is working to compile data from all Illinois districts to see which were non-compliant. She said it is possible the ballots wouldn't be counted in the Nov. 2 election because they were late getting overseas.
Illinois, like other states, was required to have its absentee ballots mailed out by Sept. 18, the national deadline. She told the newstalk station that election officials have until Nov. 16 to count the absentee ballots, which must be postmarked by midnight Nov. 1 to be eligible.
Justice Department officials confirmed the Illinois investigation.
Other states have been tardy as well. Justice settled a case with New Mexico earlier this week after six counties were found to be in violation of the law. The department is preparing a lawsuit against the state of New York after several counties and five boroughs in New York City were found to be in violation.
Problems with military balloting have occurred with some frequency since the 2000 presidential election, when servicemembers overseas began to complain they either weren't receiving ballots or were getting them too late to vote in what turned out to be a close election between George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore - an election that was eventually decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Critics hinted at a concerted effort by the Clinton White House to thwart the military vote because members tended to vote heavily Republican. Others said the Pentagon's system of absentee balloting was simply outmoded and in need of updating.
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