By Lynn Sweet and Abdon M. Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times Staff Writers
WASHINGTON--Dan White, the executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections, told the Chicago Sun-Times the agency is in ongoing discussions with the Department of Justice--the latest was a conference call on Thursday--to make sure all military and overseas ballots are counted by the Nov. 16 deadline.
An overseas or military ballot must be postmarked by midnight Nov. 1--but then has until Nov. 16 to be counted by a local election authority.
Most of the 110 election authorities in Illinois have complied with a federal deadline to ship out ballots to military and oversea voters by Sept. 18; 34 Illinois jurisdictions sent out ballots late, with the latest on Oct. 8, White said.
"There is still time," said White, for overseas and military ballots "to make it back to local election authorities and have that ballot counted."
White said he anticipating reaching an agreement with the Justice Department and did not expect the state to be sued--action the Justice Department has taken in other states whose election authorities have been tardier than Illinois is getting overseas and military ballots out. White said he will have another conference call with Justice Department voting rights lawyers on Friday.
Illinois Republicans have been raising concerns about the possibility that military ballots--which may trend Republican--may not be counted.
The GOP campaigns of Mark Kirk and Bill Brady, the candidates for senator and governor, said in a joint statement issued Thursday, "Our service members deserve an immediate investigation to gather all the facts and find an appropriate remedy to ensure their ballots are counted in this election. We pledge to do everything within our power to prevent the disenfranchisement of Americans in uniform."
Reports in some other news outlets that the Justice Department was investigating the State of Illinois over the military and overseas ballots gave a misleading impression that the Justice Department was targeting Illinois when the Justice Department is investigating every state to make sure the election authorities are in compliance with federal law.
Justice Department spokesman Xochitl Hinojosa told the Sun-Times on Thursday, "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."
Illinois does not have as much room to maneuver as other states because there are two elections for the Senate seat at the same time: for the full six-year term and to fill the remaining weeks of President Obama's old Senate term.
The results for the Obama seat must be certified by local jurisdictions by Nov. 19, so it is unlikely, White said, that the Nov. 16 deadline will be extended. Among the remedies being discussed with the Justice Department White said, was publicizing--on websites and with other notices--that military and overseas voters are aware that they their ballots only have to be postmarked midnight Nov. 1.
Pallasch reported from Chicago.