Johnson’s overseas military voting bill approved by Senate

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday approved Sen. Ruth Johnson’s legislation to establish a secure process for active duty military members to electronically return their ballots.

“Although ballots can be emailed to military members, they must be printed out, completed by the service member, and mailed back to the voter’s local clerk in time to be counted. This can be difficult for military personnel in combat areas or on a ship at sea, where mail service is inconsistent and can have long delays,” said Johnson, who served as Michigan secretary of state from 2011 to 2018. “This measure would ensure our brave service men and women have every opportunity to vote by allowing them to use the same secure technology they already use to transmit classified documents to electronically return their ballots — instead of having to rely on the U.S. mail service.”

Johnson said her bill is the result of meeting with troops and military leaders during a tour she made to the Middle East with a bipartisan group of secretaries of state.

Senate Bill 311, sponsored by Johnson, would require the state to establish a process to allow for members of the armed forces, who are on active duty, absent from the U.S., and not expected to return home in time to cast their vote, to electronically return their ballot to their city or township clerk using a U.S. Department of Defense verified electronic signature.

SB 8, sponsored by Sen. Paul Wojno, D-Warren, would define “United States Department of Defense verified electronic signature” as the certificate-based digital identification code issued to qualified personnel by the DOD as the Common Access Card or its successor.

A CAC is an encrypted smart card that serves as the identification issued to active duty military members by the DOD. A service member would need their CAC card along with their password or PIN to transmit their ballot securely.

The Senate also approved two other bills. SB 277, sponsored by Sen. Michael D. MacDonald, R-Macomb Township, would allow county clerks to assist local clerks to more quickly remove deceased voters from the Qualified Voter File, and SB 302, sponsored by Sen. Kim LaSata, R-Bainbridge Township, would require a voter to acknowledge on their voter registration form they understand it is a felony to vote more than once in the same election, whether in the same or a different location, such as a second residence.

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