Alabama’s mandate that runoff elections be held 42 days after an inconclusive federal primary pre-empts the right of overseas military personnel to participate via absentee ballots, the 11th Circuit ruled. “In our nation’s recent history, active military personnel and their families have faced severe difficulties exercising their fundamental right to vote,” said U.S. Circuit judge Stanley Marcus, writing for the three-judge panel. “For affected service members, the decision to serve their country was the very act that frequently deprived them of a voice in selecting its government,” Marcus added. To remedy the problem, Congress in 1986 passed the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which provides that a state must send absentee voters a ballot 45 days before a federal election.
But under Alabama law, a federal runoff election, required if no candidate in the primary election receives a majority of votes, is set by statute at 42 days after the federal primary election. This system will not allow overseas voters 45 days to receive and return their ballots, the federal government said.
In response, Alabama’s secretary of state pointed to another provision of the act that directs states to give overseas voters “sufficient time” to vote, and argued that each state should be allowed to determine how much time would be sufficient for overseas voters to turn in their ballots.
But the Atlanta-based appeals court rejected Alabama’s interpretation last week.
Full Article: Courthouse News Service.