Nearly three years after Congress passed a law to guarantee military and overseas voters receive their absentee ballots at least 45 days before a federal election, several states are still failing to comply with the law. The Department of Justice announced last week that it had filed a lawsuit against Vermont and its chief election official for not complying with the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, also known as the MOVE Act, which was passed in 2009 to safeguard the voting rights of the military, their family members and U.S. citizens overseas by allowing them adequate time to request, receive and send in their ballots from overseas.
Vermont missed the Sept. 22 deadline, failing to send more than 20 percent of the absentee ballots requested by the state’s military and overseas voters for the Nov. 6 election, according to a statement by Justice Department. DOJ is seeking an order that the state extend its deadline for returned ballots to Nov. 16 for affected voters and take all necessary steps to prevent future violations. But Vermont is far from the only state to have failed to meet required deadlines. The House Armed Services Committee last week sent a letter of inquiry to the Defense and Justice departments, expressing concern that Wisconsin, Mississippi and Michigan had also not met the deadline.
Lawmakers asked whether the Justice Department was planning to take legal action against these states, and were awaiting written responses from both departments detailing steps they’d taken to prevent the disenfranchisement of military and overseas voters. Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said DOJ is conducting a nationwide review and investigation to ensure that states are complying with the MOVE Act, but it could not comment on future legal actions.