The Fairfax County Registrar—and possibly other Registrars in Virginia—is rejecting most Federal Write-in Absentee Ballots (FWAB) cast by our men and women in uniform.
The FWAB is a federally mandated write-in ballot that allows military servicemembers and their dependents to cast an absentee ballot when they have not received a ballot before the election. It is a safety net that allows a servicemember to vote even if the mail truck hasn't reached his or her remote base in Iraq or Afghanistan in time to cast a regular absentee ballot.
Why is the Fairfax Registrar rejecting these ballots? The Registrar states that the witness who signs the envelope containing the FWAB must include his or her address—but most of the ballots don't include the witness' address.
Virginia law does not require a witness address for any other type of absentee ballot. So, for example, a Virginia resident attending college out of state does not need to include her witness' address on her absentee ballot envelope. But the Fairfax County Registrar is holding servicemembers, including those currently defending their country in war zones, to a much more exacting standard, requiring the witnesses who sign their FWABs to include their address.
To make matters worse, the Federal form (SF-186A) that is used for the FWAB does not have a space for witnesses to include their address. And the Department of Defense's official Voting Assistance Guide, which it provides to servicemembers as an instruction manual for casting votes while overseas, does not tell servicemembers that they must include an address for their witness. The servicemember would thus have no way of knowing of this requirement.
Federal law does not allow this type of disparate treatment of servicemembers. The Uniform and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act (UOCAVA), 42 U.S.C. § 1973ff-2, requires states to process FWABs "in the manner provided by law for absentee ballots in the State involved." (emphasis added). In other words, the FWAB must be treated like any other absentee ballot under state law and may not be subject to more restrictive requirements. Yet that is precisely what is being done here.
Express your feelings to the state directly:
Virginia State Board of Elections
Suite 101, 200 North 9th Street, Richmond, Virginia 23219-3485
Telephone: 804 864-8901 Toll Free: 800 552-9745 FAX: 804 371-0194
GO! NOW! This cannot stand. Thank you.
*cross-posted in all the usual places!*