Dept. of Justice lawsuit decision response

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson today issued the following statement regarding U.S. District Judge Robert J. Jonker’s decision on a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice. The DOJ had filed the lawsuit after 70 local communities failed to mail out absentee ballots to military and overseas voters by required state and federal deadlines.

“I want to thank Judge Jonker for acting swiftly to ensure overseas residents and the brave men and women of our armed forces will have their voices heard on Election Day. I am pleased that the judge agreed to extend the deadline to accept and count the affected ballots.

“Local clerks do an excellent job on the front lines of elections – nearly 95 percent of the clerks did mail out the absentee ballots on time. They know it’s critical that our overseas voters and military members – who put their lives on the line every day to protect our freedom – get a right to participate in the very system they are protecting.”

Johnson said she was pleased that the judge did not agree with the DOJ’s unreasonable demands for unnecessary paperwork from election officials, especially during the busy election season.

“Our Bureau of Elections staff will continue working with local clerks to ensure military and overseas ballots are sent out in a timely way to prevent missed deadlines in the future and implement the appropriate level of verification. However, once the Legislature returns, I will seek changes in state law that will allow the Secretary of State’s office to authorize extending the period for accepting and counting overseas and military ballots should a local jurisdiction fail to send out the ballots by the 45-day deadline.

“Additionally, I thank Attorney General Bill Schuette’s staff for successfully representing my office on this matter.”

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