Starting Saturday, clerks across the state will mail out the first general election ballots, sending envelopes to military personnel and Michiganders overseas.

Military and overseas voters are a small but recognized segment of the electorate, accounting for fewer than 22,000 voters in Michigan’s 2020 elections. Saturday is the unceremonious unofficial start of voting in the Nov. 8 election, but federal law ensures the right of military personnel and overseas voters to receive their ballots 45 days in advance and make their voices heard.

“I still pay my insurance and taxes,” said Ellen Seidel, a voter from Bloomfield Township who is living in London to get her master’s degree. “I will be returning to the US, so these decisions will affect me in the future as well.”

But while these far-flung Michiganders get a head start on voting, their verification ballots must be filed like everyone else’s: at their local clerk’s office by 8 p.m. on Election Day. However, this may change after November.

Proposition 2 requires the counting of military and overseas ballots, if any with a postmark until election day. According to the proposed constitutional amendment, the relevant election office must receive the ballot within six days of the election. full text.

Brian Stone, now a realtor in Dearborn, was serving on a U.S. Navy command ship off the coast of Japan when he tried to vote in the 2010 Michigan election.

He used a federal program called FVAP, which allowed him to print the ballot safely at sea, fill it out, and mail it to Michigan. But when the mail leaves the ship depends on when the ship is replenished.

After the election, Stone learned that his ballot had arrived in Michigan too late and had not been counted.

“It’s not my choice that I’m in the middle of the ocean and I couldn’t get a ballot in the mail on short notice,” he said.

Less than 1% of absentee ballots in Michigan were rejected in the November 2020 election, according to the US Election Assistance Commission the reportbut 4.6% of Michigan military and foreign ballots were rejected.

“Most people don’t because they put off sending until the last minute, it’s just because the mail takes a long time,” said Julie Campbell-Bode, chair of the board Fems for Democracythe Michigan group that helped get Prop 2 signed.

Stone noted that also contributing to the high opt-out rate is that military voters are often in their teens or early 20s and thus new to voting and less informed about the requirements and deadlines.

Campbell-Bode said military voting was one of the big talking points of her Prop 2 signature gatherers because people didn’t know the ballot return deadline was the same for military voters.

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Extending that deadline could also help military voters avoid late-campaign surprises that could swing their vote, said Eric Dabbs, who was drafted from Lansing and is now serving in the U.S. Air Force in Germany.

The debate, for example, may take place too close to Election Day before a service member has to mail in his or her ballot. In the presidential elections of 2016, Dubs noted, a possible change of elections FBI letter about Hillary Clinton came out just 10 days before election day.

Proposition 2 gets his vote because voters “must be given fairness in the information they can use in making their choice.”

Stone said the amendment is a “step in the right direction” to make it easier for military members to vote, but he would like to see a way to vote digitally overseas in the future — like how he was able to print a ballot from a Navy ship.

Republicans have concerns about other provisions of Prop 2, including guaranteeing early in-person voting days, editing voter identification requirements and allowing donations (as long as they are disclosed) to finance elections.

But Seidel likes the idea of ​​six extra days for her vote to return to Michigan.

“I think having that little leeway to make sure your voice counts is really important,” she said. “And you’re already going through all the trouble of voting, so your vote should count.”

Are you an overseas voter, military or other Michigan voter looking to vote by absentee ballot? Learn how to request a newsletter here.

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