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Reaching military and overseas voters earlier.

The new Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act requires states to send absentee ballots to overseas voters at least 45 days before the next federal election, beginning with those held on Nov, 2, 2010. It's forcing at least 10 states and the District of Columbia to consider holding their primaries earlier or seek a federally approved waiver.

If a conflict prevents a state from meeting the 45-day deadline, it must apply for a hardship waiver with the U.S. Department of Defense's Federal Voting Assistance Program.

The three grounds to qualify for "undue hardship" are:

* The date of the state primary is too close.

* A delay occurs in generating ballots because of a legal contest.

* The state constitution prohibits the state from complying.

Forty-five days before the Nov. 2, 2010, election is Sept. 18.

Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia had planned to hold primaries on Sept. 14, with Hawaii on Sept. 18, 2010. That doesn't give these states enough time to certify results, conduct recounts, print ballots and still make the 45-day deadline.

New Hampshire and Vermont are already considering changing their primary election dates.

The new federal law also requires each state to designate at least one means of electronic communication fax or e-mail--to handle voter registration and absentee ballot applications, to provide election and voting information and to send blank ballots overseas.

Finally, states may not reject an otherwise valid registration application, absentee ballot application, voted ballot, or Federal Write-in (emergency) Absentee Ballot because of notarization requirements, paper type, or weight and size measurements.

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Title Annotation:TRENDS AND TRANSITIONS
Publication:State Legislatures
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2010
Words:270
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