Senate panel approves overseas military voting bill

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

“We owe it to our brave service men and women to give them every opportunity to vote as they serve our country, while also protecting the security of our elections,” said Johnson, who served as Michigan secretary of state from 2011 to 2018. “The idea for this reform came from meeting with troops and military leaders at five bases and three ships during a tour I made to the Middle East with a bipartisan group of secretaries of state.

“Mail service for those in combat areas or on a ship at sea is inconsistent and can experience long delays. This measure would allow service members to use the same secure technology they already use to transmit classified military documents to electronically return their ballots.”

Senate Bill 311 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 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 committee also approved two other bills. SB 277 would allow county clerks to assist local clerks to more quickly remove deceased voters from the Qualified Voter File, and SB 302 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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