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As part of National Military Appreciation Month, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has announced plans to improve voting rights for members of the military and their families and new efforts to recognize the service of veterans across Michigan.
Standing in a hangar at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Grand Ledge, with military officials, veterans, state legislators and other guests in attendance, Benson said her plans (see document) will require legislative collaboration as well as action through initiatives by the Department of State.
She is driven, she said, by what she experienced 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.”
Among her proposals, Benson wants to allow military members and their spouses overseas to return their ballots electronically, 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 also would 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.