---- — DETROIT (AP) — Minority Democrats in the state Senate introduced legislation Tuesday to make it easier for members of the armed forces stationed internationally to vote in Michigan elections.
The bills would let service members' absentee ballots be counted as long as they're postmarked by Election Day and would allow absentee ballots to be submitted electronically, according to the office of Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer.
Another bill in the package would permit statewide online voter registration, Whitmer's office said in a statement.
"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 service members' votes. While they are serving our country overseas, they should not lose their voice over here."
State law now says absentee ballots from overseas service members must arrive by Election Day. The U.S. government requires that states send absentee ballots to U.S. citizens overseas at least 45 days before an election, but Whitmer said at least 70 local clerks sent out absentee ballots late for the Aug. 7 primary.
Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson supports the concept of counting absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day, said spokeswoman Gisgie Gendreau. But she said there are technical issues.
"It's unclear how long ballots would be accepted," Gendreau said in an email to The Associated Press. "Election results must be officially canvassed. To address those concerns, Johnson is instituting more widespread use of the absentee ballot tracker so voters know where their ballot is in the system and pushed for the secure emailing of ballots to voters to reduce mailing time."
Electronic vote casting is an idea that's not yet ready for prime time, Gendreau said.
"There is no secure system at this time; no audit trail," she said. A 2012 report by the Verified Voting Foundation, Common Cause Education Fund and Rutgers University "indicated technology is NOT sufficiently secure to allow for the electronic return of ballots," Gendreau said.
The same thing applies to online voter registration, she said.
"While Secretary Johnson does support online voter registration eventually, current technology is not sufficiently secure at this time to ensure integrity in that process," Gendreau said.
The Associated Press also sent an email request for comment Tuesday to state Senate Republicans.