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Legality of the Use of Ranked Choice Absentee Ballots for Military and Overseas Voters

by Cynthia Okechukwu // Published July 18, 2011

This report analyzes the potential legal issues with the use of ranked choice absentee ballots for military and overseas voters. Ranked choice absentee ballots enable U.S. citizens covered by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986 (UOCAVA) to cast votes in runoff elections in states where the ballot turnaround time between first and second elections is short. Three states and one municipality have adopted ranked choice absentee ballots for military and overseas voters, including for federal and state primary and general runoff elections in Arkansas and federal and state primaries in South Carolina and Louisiana. The use of ranked choice absentee ballots is unlikely to violate the Equal Protection or Due Process Clauses of the Constitution, or to disenfranchise absentee voters. In addition, these ballots may help states avoid litigation under UOCAVA.