Benson wants more voting access for military members

    A soldier casts her 2008 ballot | National Guard photo, Wikimedia Commons

    Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson wants the state to take action to increase voting access for military service members.

    Under the plan unveiled earlier this week at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Grand Ledge, Benson wants the Legislature to take up a bipartisan package of bills that would, among other things, allow military members and their spouses overseas to return their ballots electronically and to improve ballot tracking tools for military and overseas voters.

    Jocelyn Benson

    Benson, in a statement, noted an incident she talked about several times during her 2018 campaign. She said her push for military voting rights stemmed from experiences with her husband, Ryan Friederichs, who’s now chief development officer for the city of Detroit.

    In 2012, Friederichs was serving in Afghanistan. Benson said she came home one day to find that his absentee ballot for the presidential primary had been returned and marked 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.”

    Benson’s proposals call for allowing absentee ballots to be counted after Election Day, as long as they are postmarked by Election Day and received in time for canvassing, as well as increasing voter registration initiatives for those in the military community.

    Several of Benson’s proposals require legislative action. A bipartisan group of lawmakers have introduced bills, or plan to, that would accomplish the initiatives, according to Benson’s office.

    Nick Manes
    Nick Manes covers West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels. His byline also has appeared in Route Fifty and The Daily Beast. When not reporting around the state or furiously tweeting, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Krista, biking around his hometown of Grand Rapids and torturing himself rooting for the Detroit Lions.

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