Suit filed to protect soldiers’ voting rights in Maryland
On September 23, 2010, Officer John Doe (not his real name) and the Military Voter Protection Project (MVPP) filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Greenbelt Division, against the Maryland State Board of Elections (MSBE). The lawsuit contends that the MSBE violated the United States Constitution, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), and Maryland law by disenfranchising military personnel and family members with respect to non-federal offices on the ballot in the general election to be held on November 2, 2010.
UOCAVA requires all states to mail absentee ballots to military and overseas voters by the 45th day before Election Day — September 18, 2010. Maryland conducted its primary on September 14 and was thus unable to mail ballots by September 18. To avoid being sued by the U.S. Department of Justice, Maryland mailed ballots for federal offices only on September 18. The full ballot, including non-federal offices, is expected to be mailed on October 18, just 15 days before Election Day. Under a state law enacted a quarter century ago, Maryland counts overseas ballots received up to ten days after Election Day, but even with those ten days added, Maryland falls 20 days short of the MOVE Act’s 45-day standard.
There are 27,051 active duty members of the military who are Maryland voters. These folks are paying Maryland state income tax, through withholding from their salaries, no matter where the service of our country has taken them, and it is only because of their sacrifices that all of us have the opportunity to vote in free elections. I think that it is unconscionable that Maryland can reach out to military Marylanders to collect state income tax but not to enable them to vote for governor, state legislator, and other non-federal offices. I hope that the MVPP lawsuit is successful.
Captain Wright is the Director of the Service Members Law Center at the Reserve Officers Association.