LANSING, Mich. – Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced they are filing suit against 24 communities to require local clerks to extend the counting deadline for ballots that were not sent by the deadline set by Michigan election law so the voices of military and overseas voters are heard.
“The men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms must be able to participate in our democracy,” Johnson said. “While the vast majority of local clerks met the deadline, we must ensure that all military and overseas voters’ voices are heard in the Nov. 6 election.”
Johnson and Schuette are pursuing legal action to ask judges to order local clerks to extend the counting deadline for military and overseas voters who applied for a ballot by the Sept. 22 deadline by the number of days the ballots were delayed. Legislation supported by Johnson that would allow the secretary of state to extend the counting deadline without the need for court intervention is before the state Senate after House approval.
“Americans have the right to make their voice heard on Election Day and military personnel who put their lives on the line for our freedoms should be no exception,” Schuette said.
Despite repeated reminders from the Michigan Department of State Bureau of Elections and other groups, clerks in 24 local communities reported that they did not send out 38 military and overseas ballots 45 days before the Nov. 6 election, as required.
More than 8,700 ballots were requested before the deadline. That means that more than 98 percent of clerks sent the ballots in time and the number of late ballots is significantly less than during the August primary election when 155 ballots were sent to military and overseas voters past the deadline.
Bureau of Elections staff sent multiple reminders to all 1,517 local clerks about their responsibility to send out the ballots by the deadline. Bureau of Elections staff also worked with the Michigan Townships Association and the Michigan Municipal League to inform local clerks about the deadline.
Military and overseas voters still can apply for an absentee ballot. Specific directions can be found at the Michigan Voter Information Center at www.Michigan.gov/vote under “Military and Overseas Voting.” Clerks may send ballots via email to military and overseas voters if the voter prefers. All voters can visit the Voter Information Center site to view the candidates and questions that will be on their ballot.
As a former clerk, Johnson founded OPERATION: Our Troops Count when she was Oakland County clerk to push for laws that would allow military ballots to be emailed. Already, Michigan has made a number of improvements to how military and overseas voters cast ballots, including:
- Expansion of a federal write-in absentee ballot to include state and local candidates and ballot questions for overseas military and their families. Voters who use the ballot return it by mail to the appropriate clerk.
- An electronic ballot system that allows clerks to easily email ballots to overseas and military voters. This move can save as much as two weeks in arrival and response times.
- An online ballot tracker – at www.Michigan.gov/vote – that allows voters to check on their absentee ballot status.