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U.S. Sues to Protect Rights of Absentee Voters

ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) - The federal government filed a petition in Federal Court to ensure that all military and overseas absentee voters have the opportunity to vote in New York's March 31, 2009 special election for the 20th Congressional District. The attorney general claims election officials mailed some ballots overseas without allowing for at least 30 days of round-trip mail time.

On Feb. 23, Gov. David Paterson announced the March 31 special election to fill a vacancy in the 20th Congressional District, which is comprised of 10 counties in upstate New York.

The Federal Voting Assistance Program of the Department of Defense has determined that states must provide no less than 30 days for the ballots to arrive overseas and be shipped back to the United States in time to be counted. Under New York law, they must be received no later than seven days after the election.

The government claims election officials in certain counties mailed absentee ballots on dates that gave voters 25 or 26 days to receive, mark and return the ballots.

The United States asks the court to extend the eligibility window for absentee ballots to April 13, instead of April 7.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Baxter is representing the government.

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