Bloomberg News

Romney Sues Wisconsin, Seeks Absentee Ballot Extension

October 15, 2012

Mitt Romney’s campaign sued Wisconsin for allegedly delaying distribution of more than three dozen ballots for the Nov. 6 presidential election to civilians and military personnel overseas, asking a court to extend the deadline for all such ballots in the state.

Federal law mandates election officials must “transmit” absentee ballots to the military and other U.S. citizens living overseas “at least 45 days before a federal election,” Romney for President Inc. said in a complaint filed in federal court in Madison.

Wisconsin, a swing state, “failed to ensure that absentee ballots were sent to military and overseas voters who validly requested them” by the Sept. 22 deadline, the group said. A CBS News/New York Times/Quinnipiac University poll taken Oct. 4-9 put President Barack Obama ahead in Wisconsin, 50 percent to 47 percent, over Romney, a former Massachusetts governor.

According to the complaint, some ballots were sent out as much as nine days late. Completed ballots must be received by election officials no later than 4 p.m. on Nov. 9 to be counted.

The Romney group asked a federal judge to declare that the state violated the absentee ballot law and issue an injunction to extend deadlines for mailing ballots back to Wisconsin by at least five days, according to court papers filed Oct. 12.

Absentee Ballots

“Without such relief, it is unlikely that state officials will receive those individuals’ completed absentee ballots in time to be counted,” according to court papers.

Thomas Bellavia, a Wisconsin assistant attorney general assigned to the case, didn’t immediately return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment on the lawsuit.

Ryan Williams, a spokesman for the Romney campaign, said in a phone interview that about 44 ballots were sent out late, in about 30 municipalities in Wisconsin. He declined to comment on how many absentee ballots are projected to be filed in Wisconsin.

The number of ballots at issue is far lower than initially thought, said Reid Magney, spokesman for the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, which oversees the state’s elections.

Additional Review

After additional review with local election clerks, “there are only four ballots that were sent out where the voters wouldn’t have the required 45 days,” he said in an interview today. One of those, a voter in basic training at a military base in Georgia, got his ballot online last week, Magney said. So far, 4,234 absentee ballots have been sent to these voters.

“Up until election day, someone in the military can get the ballot off the web site,” Magney said.

Military personnel and permanent overseas voters cast 6,496 ballots in the 2008 election in Wisconsin, according to the board’s website. A total of 2,997,086 votes were cast in Wisconsin in 2008.

Magney declined to comment on the merits of the lawsuit. “Our attorneys will be responding to the substance of the lawsuit,” he said.

The case is Romney for President Inc. v. State of Wisconsin, 12-cv-745, U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin (Madison).

To contact the reporters on this story: Phil Milford in Wilmington, Delaware at pmilford@bloomberg.net; Margaret Cronin Fisk in Detroit at mcfisk@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net


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