CHICAGO (WLS) – The U.S. Justice Department is investigating whether the state of Illinois missed the deadline for mailing absentee ballots to members of the military and other overseas American voters as part of a new federal overseas voting law.
Cris Cray, Director of Legislation at the Illinois State Board of Elections, says not all of Illinois’ 110 jurisdictions were compliant with the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE).
The law requires every state to mail their absentee ballots 45 days prior to Election Day to overseas troops, government employees and other Americans who want to vote from abroad.
Cray says she is currently compiling data from each of Illinois’ jurisdictions to determine which were compliant and which were delinquent. Cray said it’s possible the ballots may not be counted because the state was tardy in sending them out.
Illinois was required to have all of its absentee ballots mailed by Sept. 18, the national deadline. Election officials have until Nov. 16 to count the absentee ballots, which must be postmarked by midnight Nov. 1 to be eligible.
In an e-mail response, Justice Department spokeswoman Xochil Hinojosa confirmed that Illinois is being investigated for the absentee ballot infraction.
“The Department is working with all states, including Illinois, to investigate and remedy any problems that will prevent our men and women serving overseas from having the opportunity to vote and have their votes counted,” Hinojosa said.
The Justice Department has brought a lawsuit against the state of New York after settling with New Mexico over a similar case of delinquent absentee ballots for overseas Americans.
Several New York counties including the five boroughs of New York City were found to be in violation of the deadline after the state was permitted by the Defense Department to move its deadline to Oct. 1 because the state’s primary day was four days before the deadline.
The Justice Department settled a case with New Mexico Tuesday where six counties failed to mail ballots by the deadline.
Overseas ballots could be a deciding factor in Illinois’ mid-term elections where recent polls show a tight U.S. Senate race between Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias. Republican Bill Brady has an edge over Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn for governor.