Democrats Pushing Overseas Voting Reforms

By: Lindsay Veremis Email
By: Lindsay Veremis Email

It's been nearly one week since Michigan's primary election and the fallout continues. Democrats called the recent voting "mass confusion" Monday and pitched changes to ease the process for military members overseas.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson admits the election wasn't perfect, but says Michigan's many election clerks are doing all they can to make voting run smoothly.

"They want to exercise the rights that they feel they're off defending," Iraq war veteran David Knezek said.

He is concerned Michigan isn't doing enough to make that happen.

The U.S. Department of Justice recently sued the state because it didn't provide ballots to overseas voters in time for last week's primary. Clerks in 70 communities missed the deadline.

"You're in the middle of a combat zone, mail is taking three or four weeks to get to and from the U.S. and Iraq or Afghanistan or on ships so it's very difficult," Knezek said.

Michigan responded by extending deadlines to count the affected ballots. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is pushing for legislation that goes a step further.

"If a clerk is late then I would automatically administratively require them to keep the election open that many days," Johnson said.

Some democrats want more.

"Mistakes were made absolutely at the state level on election day," Jocelyn Bensen said. "Now is not the time to finger point or pass the buck you take responsibility and you implement reforms to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Democratic leaders are filing three bills in the State Senate that would establish electronic voter registration for overseas voters, allow electronic ballot return and extend the amount of time in which ballots can be received.

Regardless of the success of those bills, Johnson says military members will see improvement come November.

"If they don't get a ballot, which we just passed legislation to let it go out electronically to them then they can write it on any piece of paper that they can get a hold of and send it back," Johnson said.

She will be heading to the middle east next month with five other Secretaries of State to talk with troops about their voting needs.

Michigan has received a $430,000 federal grant to work on overseas voting issues.

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