Secretary Benson looks to improve military voting rights

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LANSING, MI (WILX) - On Tuesday, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced plans to improve voting rights for members of the military and their families.

She proposed legislative collaboration, new initiatives to improve the military community’s voting rights, and new efforts to recognize the service of veterans across Michigan.

The announcement was done in a hangar at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Grand Ledge.

Benson was surrounded by military officials, veterans, and state legislators.

"i'm better committed to serve those who serve and protect us everyday," Benson said. "At the core of my agenda, our efforts to improve access to democracy, a series of proposals to ensure access to the vote, to our military services members and their families."

In her statement she spoke of her experience when her husband, Sgt. Ryan Friedrichs, was serving in Afghanistan with the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade. Benson said she came home one day and found his absentee ballot for the 2012 presidential primary returned to their home as "undeliverable."

“Currently, military service members and their families in Michigan face a series of obstacles in participating in our democracy, as my husband and I experienced firsthand,” Benson said. “I come at issues like voting protections as a military spouse, and as your secretary of state I am committed to better serve those who serve and protect us every day.”

One of her proposals suggests that military members and their spouses overseas would be allowed to return their ballots electronically,.

Another wants to improve ballot tracking tools for military and overseas voters, and to create a portal for the military community at Michigan.gov/MilitaryVoting.

She also supports eliminating the charge for military license plates and developing new license plates for families of service members and for women veterans.

Veterans would also be recognized in Secretary of State branch offices, and Michigan would join Americans from 13 other states through a new “Honor A Veteran With Your Vote” program.

Her full proposal is attached.

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