UPDATED October 22, 2010 – 6:17 p.m.

By CHRISTOPHER WILLS, Associated Press Writer

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Some Illinois residents serving overseas in the military will get extra time to vote in an effort to make up for absentee ballots being mailed late, state and federal officials said Friday.

The U.S. Justice Department and Illinois election officials said they’ve reached an agreement on what to do about the delayed ballots and were submitting it to the courts for final approval.

But the Illinois Republican Party announced that it plans to challenge the proposal for not offering more extra voting time.

The agreement involves just six Illinois counties: Boone, Hancock, Jersey, Massac, St. Clair and Schuyler. They sent the ballots between 16 and 20 days late.

The proposed consent decree would give overseas voters an extra day to get their completed ballot in the mail. Ballots would have to be postmarked Nov. 2 instead of Nov. 1, the normal deadline.

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In addition, local election officials could count votes that arrive as late as Nov. 19. Normally, votes must arrive by Nov. 16 to be counted.

Illinois election authorities were supposed to send absentee ballots overseas by Sept. 18 so voters could fill them out and get them in the mail before the Nov. 2 election. But about one-third of the state’s 110 election authorities sent at least some of their ballots after the deadline.

St. Clair County was the worst offender. It sent out nearly 1,300 ballots after the deadline, which amounts to nearly half the late ballots in all of Illinois.

Thomas Perez, an assistant attorney general, said the plan for extra voting time “will ensure that the state’s military and overseas voters can participate in the upcoming federal elections.”

The Illinois Republican Party, however, said the plan doesn’t go far enough.

General Counsel Brien Sheahan said overseas voters should get an extra day to vote for every day their ballot was delayed, up until Nov. 19. That would mean voters could actually fill out their ballots after the Nov. 2 election.

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