Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Senate Democrats introduced legislation today that would ensure the votes of state military personnel serving overseas are properly counted. The new bills would allow for deployed servicemembers’ absentee ballots to be counted as long as they were postmarked by Election Day and would also allow them to submit their absentee ballots electronically. Another bill in the package would allow for statewide online voter registration.

“On this important day, we should recognize the American men and women who are fighting to protect our way of life and do our part here at home to ensure their rights are upheld,” said Whitmer. “No voter should be unduly disenfranchised, let alone our men and women in the military, and this legislation will protect our servicemembers’ votes. While they are serving our country overseas, they should not lose their voice over here.”

Under current state law, absentee ballots from military members serving abroad must be received by Election Day. The federal government requires states to mail or email absentee ballots to U.S. citizens overseas 45 days before an election. The need to address this issue arose after at least 70 local clerks around the state sent thousands of Michigan military servicemembers their absentee ballots for the August 7th Primary Election late, jeopardizing their ability to have their votes returned and officially tallied. A federal judge made an exception for this particular instance, but legislation is still required for a permanent safeguard for military servicemembers voting from overseas.

“Too much legislation comes out of the Capitol focusing on phantom problems and trying to prevent people from voting,” said Senator Coleman A. Young II, a sponsor of one of the bills. “These bills do the exact opposite—they address a direct infringement on our servicemembers’ right to vote and offer an immediate solution. These men and women do so much to protect our freedom, and we should do whatever we can to protect theirs.”

“As an Army wife I know that the last thing our servicemembers and their families need is the added stress of trying to get their ballots in time to vote,” said Jocelyn Benson, an expert on election law at Wayne State University. “Many of our citizens are overseas, fighting to protect our way of life. These reforms will ensure our servicemembers can cast their votes with ease and participate in the very democratic freedoms they are fighting to protect. I applaud Leader Whitmer and the Senate Democrats for proposing these important changes.”