Proposal would let military, civilians cast electronic absentee ballots

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By ANJANA SCHROEDER
Capital News Service

LANSING – A Detroit senator says it should be easier for military and overseas citizens to vote in November after 150 voters received absentee ballots late for the August primaries.

But there’s virtually no chance the law will be changed in time for this year’s election.

Sen. Coleman Young II, D-Detroit, said he was upset when 70 city and township clerks missed state and federal deadlines to provide military and overseas voters with their absentee ballots in time for the August primaries.

Young’s bill would allow overseas military and voters to electronically submit their absentee ballots.

He said, “If these brave young men and women are out there for us, it is about time that we stand up for them.”

The bill would also apply to Michigan non-military citizens who are out of the country on Election Day.

The Bureau of Elections has reminded city and township clerks to mail military and overseas ballots for the November elections, and the Secretary of State’s office said they should have their ballots the week of Sept. 24.

Young said he’s heard no major objections to his proposal, “but there will probably be conversation about the integrity of the votes.”

Secretary of State press secretary Fred Woodhams said mailing ballots is much more secure than electronic submission.

Gladwin County Clerk Laura Brandon-Maveal said either way absentee ballots are accepted, the State has good parameters to ensure votes are secure.

She said, “I don’t think mail is the best way because of the time it does take.”

Brandon-Maveal said the standards are different for in-person voters than those overseas. “People overseas can register and apply for absentee ballots at the same time, while first time voters here have to vote in person first.”

However, in Gladwin County, the integrity of votes isn’t of much concern because it has such a small town feel. “Everyone knows everybody here,” Brandon-Maveal said.

Susan Smith of the League of Women Voters of Michigan said the league supports making voting easier for citizens serving overseas. She said the organization supports the bill.

Under Young’s bill, county, city, township or village clerks would accept electronically transmitted absentee voter ballots from voters overseas, including civilians. It would give those voters until 2 p.m. of the Saturday before the election to apply for their absentee ballot.

Roger Cardamone, Macomb County’s chief election clerk, said, “In general, anything that makes it easier for our military members to vote the better.”

Capt. Aaron Jenkins, the public affairs officer for the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs, said the department doesn’t deal with the absentee voting issue.

And Angie Simpson, the department’s deputy of public information, said it hasn’t seen any hurdles in the voting process.

Young’s legislative director, Diontrae Hayes, said 32 states have a system in place for electronic voting.

Hayes said, “We’re just trying to bring Michigan in alignment with it, and hopefully we can find success in it and people who will work together to ensure that our military service members and people who are overseas who are United States residents have a chance to vote.”

Young said he is unsure whether the bill will be considered by the Senate Committee on Local Government and Elections before the end of the year.
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