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Sec. of State Johnson Announces $430k Grant to Benefit Military, Overseas Voters

The U.S. Army, Flickr

Michigan has received a grant of more then $430,000 from the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) to make improvements that will benefit those who vote absentee, especially military and overseas voters, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson announced today.

The $431,514 Electronic Absentee Systems for Elections grant awarded to the state is for software development that will allow election officials to electronically create, process and track ballots for all absentee voters. It will also pay for communications to raise awareness of Michigan’s voter registration and absentee ballot options among military and overseas voters.

Improvements are expected to be in place for November’s presidential election.

“The grant will help ensure participation by military and overseas voters by allowing us to upgrade our technology related to the absentee ballot process,” Johnson said. “This is an exciting development as we strive forward toward more secure and fair elections in Michigan.”

The grant money will allow the Bureau of Elections to assist between 600 and 800 smaller jurisdictions in moving to an electronic absentee ballot tracking system, Johnson said. Those jurisdictions will be able to do away with time-consuming manual processes and enter absentee voter information directly into the state’s Qualified Voter File by computer, which previously was not an option.

Voters registered in those jurisdictions will now be able to check the progress of their absentee ballot applications and the Bureau of Elections will receive absentee ballot data from all local election officials instantly and accurately.

Elections staff will have the resources needed to expand outreach to military and overseas voters as a result of the grant, Johnson said. Emphasis will be placed on identifying these voters and obtaining email addresses from them, because people tend to keep the same email address even when their location changes. Election reminders and other information can then be sent to Michigan’s military and overseas voters to ensure they have the opportunity to participate.

“Changes that make it easier for a servicemember to be involved in the voting process are certainly beneficial,” said Capt. Corissa Barton, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “Distance should never prevent servicemembers from having their votes counted back at home.”

Johnson thanked Bureau of Elections staff for successfully navigating FVAP’s highly competitive application process to secure a grant for Michigan.

The primary goal of FVAP is to assist uniformed services and overseas voters in exercising their right to vote to they have equal opportunity to have their vote counted.

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