DETROIT (AP) -- The federal government asked a judge Tuesday to order dozens of Michigan communities to count military absentee ballots even if they come in after the Aug. 7 primary election.
In a lawsuit, the U.S. Justice Department said many local clerks failed to get those ballots out by the June 23 deadline.
Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson was bracing for a lawsuit after disclosing last week that at least 70 communities didn't meet the deadline and dozens more hadn't responded to her survey. She agrees that a remedy is necessary to ensure members of the military get their ballots.
It was unclear how many people were affected.
"Our armed forces, their families and overseas citizens deserve a meaningful opportunity to fully participate in our nation's elections," said Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general in charge of civil rights.
Communities should be ordered to accept absentee ballots for as many days they missed the deadline to get them sent, the government proposed. Military voters also should have the option of sending a ballot by fax, email or overnight mail at no cost to them, the Justice Department said.
Cities that missed the June 23 deadline, a Saturday, include Battle Creek, Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, according to the secretary of state's office.
Michigan's primary election includes the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate and many congressional contests.
Ishpeming in the Upper Peninsula made the list of cities that missed the deadline.
City Clerk Jenifer Rajala said she was away from work until two days after the deadline, but immediately shipped the ballots out to two men, one by email and the other by regular mail.
The ballots haven't been returned yet, but Rajala has confirmed they were received.
"I can't tell you how embarrassed I am," she said. "We will take the necessary steps internally so that deadline is never missed again."