United States v. Alabama, No. 14-11298 (11th Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), 52 U.S.C. 20302(a)(8)(A), includes a variety of measures that states are required to adopt in order to accommodate military voters when they administer federal elections. At issue is section 20302(a)(8)(A)'s requirement that, when a qualifying military or overseas voter requests an absentee ballot for a federal election, a state must transmit a ballot to that voter forty-five days before the federal election. The United States filed suit against Alabama seeking to enjoin the State from holding federal runoff elections forty-two days after federal primary elections. When the court looked at the text of section 20302(a)(9), the court found that it directs states only to "establish a written plan" in preparation for runoff elections, and makes no claim that it abrogates the mandatory forty-five day transmission timeline. In light of the plain language of this substantive command - and Congress's clear intent to prioritize the empowerment of military voters through clear and accessible absentee voting procedures - the court concluded that section 20302(a)(9) does not alter the court's interpretation. Therefore, the court held that the State must transmit validly requested absentee ballots to eligible UOCAVA voters forty-five days before each federal election, whether that election is primary, general, special, or runoff. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the United States.