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Romney campaign sues over absentee ballots in Wisconsin

Both presidential campaigns are closely watching states' election officials for any ballot or voting-law irregularities. The Romney team is the latest to sue, over Wisconsin's handling of absentee ballots for residents abroad.

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Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign rally at the Golden Lamb in Lebanon, Ohio, October 13.

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

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The Mitt Romney campaign has filed a federal lawsuit in Wisconsin seeking a five-day extension for absentee voters overseas and in the military.

The campaign for the Republican presidential candidate is concerned about 44 ballots that the state’s Government Accountability Board says were sent out by local election officials after the Sept. 22 deadline. Under federal election law, all ballots are to be returned by Nov. 9 (three days after the general election); the Romney campaign wants that deadline pushed back to Nov. 14 for overseas absentee ballots.

Ahead of Friday's action in Wisconsin, the Romney campaign had filed similar complaints with state election officials in Michigan, Mississippi, and Vermont – indications of just how closely presidential campaign officials are monitoring states' compliance with election law in an effort to ensure that their own candidate is not shortchanged in the 2012 vote count in a whisker-close race.

Last year, Wisconsin changed its election laws to comply with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, which sets a minimum of 45 days between sending out absentee ballots to overseas and military voters and their return deadline to be counted.

To expedite the process, the state received a $1.9 million grant from the US Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program this year to develop My Vote WI (myvote.wi.gov), an online ballot delivery system that allows US citizens voting from overseas to print their ballots immediately and return them by mail to be counted.

A phone call seeking comment from the Government Accountability Board was not returned by deadline.

Wisconsin is in the tier of states considered battlegrounds in the presidential election, any one of which could play a role in determining the outcome. In the 2008 presidential election, Wisconsin tallied 6,496 military and permanent overseas voter absentee ballots, according to data from the Government Accountability Board. 

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