Justice Department officials have reached an agreement with Illinois election officials to help ensure military members, their family members and U.S. citizens living overseas get their absentee ballots in time to vote in the upcoming special primary election and special election.
The special election is being held to fill the vacant seat in the 18th congressional district resulting from the resignation of Republican Rep. Aaron Schock on March 31. The agreement establishes July 7 as the date for the special primary election; and Sept. 10 as the date for the special election. Under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Voting Act, election officials must transmit ballots to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before the upcoming election, including special elections.
Because the resignation was more than 180 days before the next election, the Illinois governor was required to order a special primary and special election. The governor originally set the special election for July 24; and the primary, if necessary, for June 8.
But compliance with the state's election laws — which mandate the shorter election cycle for holding special elections to fill vacancies for the House of Representatives — prevents the state from ensuring ballots get to overseas U.S. citizens and troops and their family members voting by absentee ballot, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court in Chicago.
"This agreement with Illinois reflects our continued commitment to ensure that members of our armed forces, their families and overseas U.S. citizens are offered a full and meaningful opportunity to vote in all federal elections, including the upcoming special elections for United States Representative from Illinois' 18th congressional district, and all future special elections," said Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division, in a news release. "The Department of Justice will always work to ensure U.S. citizens can exercise their right to vote."
As part of the agreement, state officials must provide a report to Justice officials no later than 43 days before the July 7 special primary election, certifying whether the absentee ballots were transmitted by 45 days before the election.
Justice officials say any complaints should be reported to the Civil Rights Division's Voting Section at 800-253-3931.