We can all agree that voting is a fundamental right.
When a service member and their dependents are stationed or deployed overseas, fulfilling that right becomes harder. For many states, service members and dependents can submit their voting ballot via snail mail, but for the vote to arrive on time to count the stars must align. There are many examples of ballots getting lost in the mail and returned to sender.
Military spouse, my friend, and the Secretary of State for Michigan, Jocelyn Benson has proposed legislation in Michigan to allow for electronic ballot return for service members and their dependents. Jocelyn’s husband Ryan is one of those service members whose ballot was returned to him when he was stationed overseas.
Currently, there is support for providing electronic voting opportunities to the service member. However, there is some pushback regarding providing military spouses and of-age dependents the same opportunity. This is largely due to some Michigan legislators wanting to facilitate military electronic voting through the Common Access Card (CAC) system for security purposes. The reliability – or lack thereof – of the CAC system is a topic for another day…
Herein lies the problem, as military dependents we are not issued CAC cards, and that is why some office holders in the State of Michigan do not want to include military spouses and of-age dependents. Without the use of the CAC system there is a fear of securing votes, but seemingly only among these legislators in Michigan.
Currently, 31 states and the District of Columbia allow electronic ballot submission for service members and their of-age dependents and military spouses. In fact, unless these legislators change course, Michigan will be the only state allowing such voting for service members and not their spouses and dependents.
As military spouses we understand it is the service member that is fulfilling their commitment to the United States while serving overseas, and that they experience the highest level of sacrifice. But I doubt any of us would argue that a military spouse or of-age dependent who accompanied their service member stationed abroad hasn’t also experienced sacrifice. These often include loss of employment, time away from extended family, and adapting to unknown cultures and parts of the world. We must take our voting rights off this list of sacrifices. The Secure Families Initiative has created a petition to include military spouses and of-age dependents when providing electronic ballot return for Michigan service members. The petition can be found here. Please consider signing the petition and reaching out to Adam Reames, Michigan Department of State’s legislative policy director at: [email protected] if you have a voting experience you would like to share.