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Judge May Count Late Absentee Ballots

Anita Kumar

A federal judge is considering whether to force the state to count thousands of late overseas absentee ballots -- a decision that may affect Virginia's voting procedures in future elections.

However U.S. District Judge Richard L. Williams decides the case, it probably will not alter the outcome of any contests in the Nov. 4 election. But the ruling will provide an opportunity for every voter to be heard, said attorneys who filed a lawsuit seeking to mandate the count.

"A candidate has the right not just to win or lose, but to see his or her votes counted,'' said William Hurd, a lawyer for defeated Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

McCain's campaign filed the suit before the election, but Williams removed the campaign from the case Monday because he said it did not have standing to sue.

Instead, the U.S. Department of Justice will serve as the plaintiff. The department continued to ask the judge to order the State Board of Elections to count ballots sent by Nov. 4 and received by Nov. 14.

A hearing in U.S. District Court in Richmond is scheduled for Dec. 8.

Under Virginia law, the state is not permitted to count absentee ballots that arrive after polls close on Election Day.

Justice Department and McCain campaign attorneys argued Monday that some absentee ballots were printed late and, as a result, were not mailed in time for the general election. They said the ballots should have been mailed 30 to 45 days in advance.

Localities accused in the lawsuit of sending late ballots include Arlington and Loudoun counties.

The State Board of Elections is scheduled to meet and certify election results on Nov. 24.

By Anita Kumar  |  November 17, 2008; 6:10 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar  
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