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Virginia Court: Election Officials Illegally Changed Rules for Late Absentee Ballots

'This is a big win for the Rule of Law...'

The Virginia Circuit Court of Frederick County ruled this week that the state’s election department illegally told counties to accept absentee ballots without postmarks up to three days after Election Day, Public Interest Legal Foundation reported in a press release.

“This is a big win for the Rule of Law,” said J. Christian Adams, PILF president and general counsel.

PILF in October filed the lawsuit, Reed v. Virginia Department of Elections, on behalf of Thomas Reed, an electoral board member in Frederick County, Virginia.

In violation of state law, the Virginia Board of Elections issued a directive in August to county election boards.

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The directive told them to count absentee ballots “received by the general registrar’s office by noon on the third day after the election,” even if they do “not have a postmark, or the postmark is missing or illegible.”

Virginia’s election laws allow late-arriving ballots but only with proper postmarks: “[A]ny absentee ballot returned to the general registrar after the closing of the polls on election day but before noon on the third day after the election and postmarked on or before the date of the election shall be counted.”

Lawyers for PILF said the law mandates proper postmarks.

Virginia Circuit Court Judge William Eldridge agreed.

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He issued an injunction to prevent the Virginia Board of Elections from counting illegal ballots in the future.

“This consent decree gives Mr. Reed everything he requested—a permanent ban on accepting ballots without postmarks after Election Day and is a loss for the Virginia bureaucrats who said ballots could come in without these protections,” Adams said.

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