Attorneys representing John McCain will be in a federal courtroom in Richmond tomorrow, in an effort to preserve military absentee votes.
The McCain campaign claims that ballots were sent too late to be counted in Tuesday's presidential election. A complaint filed by the candidate's legal team asks that Virginia to count military absentee ballots post-marked by Tuesday, and received by November 14th.
Virginia's deadline for absentee votes to be received is 7 p.m. Election Day.
Federal Circuit Judge Richard Williams has scheduled arguments for 1:30 p.m. tomorrow. The McCain lawsuit alleges that Virginia violated federal law by mailing absentee ballots late. A 1986 federal statute requires that absentee ballots be sent to military personnel in foreign countries at least 45 days before a federal election.
Using that guideline, ballots should have been mailed by September 20th; however, the McCain team alleges that many Virginia counties didn't send out absentee ballots until last month. That means that the votes of thousands of military personnel--who are overwhelmingly Republican--may go uncounted.
It is unclear how Judge Williams might rule in this case--or if his decision might be issued in time to affect the outcome of the election. But, in a separate case, the judge declined to implement voting changes requested by the NAACP.
As we've noted in previous posts, the disenfranchisement of military personnel is a serious problem. By some estimates, at least two-thirds of all absentee votes cast by armed forces members (and their families) go uncounted--often, for the reason stated in the McCain lawsuit. Military members often receive their ballots late, and can't return them in time to meet state deadlines.
The McCain team should be commended for their effort, but we wonder why they waited so long to file their suit--and limited their efforts (at least so far), to Virginia. The Old Dominion isn't the only state with a large population of absentee military voters, or local officials who are tardy in mailing out the ballots.
If absentee ballot procedures aren't reformed, the disenfranchisement of military personnel and their families will continue. That's why the GOP would be well-advised to seek legal remedies on a larger scale (and at an earlier date) in future elections.