Uniformed and Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act

The Uniformed and Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act ("UOCAVA") was enacted by Congress in 1986. The UOCAVA requires that the states and territories allow certain groups of citizens to register and vote absentee in elections for Federal offices. In addition, most states and territories have their own laws allowing citizens covered by the UOCAVA to register and vote absentee in state and local elections as well.

According to the Federal Code (emphasis on runoffs added), each state shall -

(1)   permit absent uniformed services voters and overseas voters to use absentee registration procedures and to vote by absentee ballot in general, special, primary, and runoff elections for Federal office;

(2)   accept and process, with respect to any general, special, primary, or runoff election for Federal office, any otherwise valid voter registration application from an absent uniformed services voter or overseas voter, if the application is received by the appropriate State election official not less than 30 days before the election; and

(3)   permit overseas voters to use Federal write-in absentee ballots (in accordance with section 1973ff-2 of this title) in general elections for Federal office.

Under section 105 of the UOCAVA, the Attorney General is authorized to bring civil actions to enforce the requirements of the UOCAVA. The Attorney General has assigned this enforcement responsibility to the Civil Rights Division.

The Civil Rights Division typically brings enforcement actions after the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP, a branch of the Department of Defense) notifies it that absentee ballots for overseas voters have been mailed so late that there is a substantial risk that some overseas voters will not be able to return them by the deadline established by State law. Since the UOCAVA was enacted in 1986, the Civil Rights Division has brought more than 20 enforcement lawsuits.

Of these, several have dealt with the problem of runoff elections not allowing sufficient time to return ballots. Examples of suits include:

U.S. v. State of Oklahoma, C.A. No. CIV-88-1444 P (W.D. Okla. Aug. 22, 1988)
U.S. v. State of Mississippi, C.A. No. J89-0529(L) (S.D. Miss. Sept. 18, 1989) 
U.S. v. State of Texas, C.A. No. A-91-CA-384 (W.D. Tex. May 17, 1991) 
U.S. v. State of Mississippi, C.A. No. 3:96-CV-177-WS (S.D. Miss. March 11, 1996)
U.S. v. State of Oklahoma, C.A. No. CIV-98-1271-W (W.D. Okla. Sept. 17, 1998) 
U.S. v. Texas, C.V. No. A-02-CA-195-SS (W.D. Tex. Mar. 24, 2002)
U.S. v. Oklahoma, CIV-02-1273L (W.D. Okla. Sept. 12, 2002)