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State election board sued over late ballots for overseas military in 2nd District race

Updated: February 12, 2013 2:46PM



The U.S. Department of Justice is suing the Illinois State Board of Elections, saying it hasn’t allowed enough time for military personnel serving overseas to know who they can vote for in the special election to replace U.S. Rep Jesse Jackson.

By law, overseas U.S. voters were supposed to receive by Saturday absentee ballots that include the names of all qualified candidates’ for the Second Congressional District primary, the federal lawsuit filed late Thursday says.

But snafus mean they aren’t likely to receive the full printed ballots for at least another two weeks, it’s alleged.

Though federal law requires that overseas voters receive their ballots 45 days before the Feb. 26 primary, state law gives candidates until Monday to challenge their rivals’ nominating papers. Those challenges could take the state another two weeks to deal with, leaving overseas voters less than half the time they’re supposed to have to vote, the lawsuit says.

In an attempt to get around the federal law, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a state amendment in December that required overseas voters be sent blank “write in” ballots by Saturday — but the Justice Department says that won’t fly.

It wants a federal judge to intervene to ensure that overseas voters’ rights are protected and that their votes are counted — though the lawsuit doesn’t specify how that should happen or whether the primary should be delayed.

The Justice Department also wants action over the April 9 general election. The short time between the primary and the general election means the state also won’t be able to send out ballots naming the candidates for the general election in time, the suit says.

Board of Election officials weren’t immediately available to comment Thursday evening.



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