On September 28, 2022, the Michigan legislature passed Senate Bill 311 attempting to ease voting procedures for Service Members by allowing “eligible members” to submit their ballot electronically. The legislation defines “eligible members” as “a member of a uniformed service on active duty [overseas] or a member of the merchant marine[.]” Further, the legislation requires eligible members to “use a United States Department of Defense verified electronic signature” when submitting the electronic ballot. Senate Bill 8, tied to Senate Bill 311, defines United States Department of Defense verified electronic signature as “the certificate-based digital identification code issued to qualified personnel by the United States Department of Defense as part of the Common Access Card, or its successor.”
An amendment (S-2) to include military spouses and eligible dependents was offered by Senator Adam Hollier. Senator Hollier stated, “Colleagues, we all voted to pass this bill with the substitute language, which would just include spouses and dependents. As you all know, and especially those who serve in the military understand, when you sign up like I did, it is not just you who serves in the military, but your entire family. I believe that we should include our entire family – spouses and dependents – in that protection when they are deployed overseas to ensure that they can cast their ballots on time and not miss the opportunity to vote. This is a very simple decision. Do you want spouses and dependents to be able to operate and get their votes cast the same way anyone else does? And being – serving overseas doing those types of things can diminish or degrade their ability to do that. It’s critically important and right now you have the decision. Do you want spouses and dependents to be able to vote when they are deployed serving our country?” 59 Journal of the Senate 1053 (June 24, 2021).
The amendment to include military spouses and eligible dependents was opposed by the bill’s sponsor, Senator Ruth Johnson. Senator Johnson stated, “I rise in to speak in opposition to the amendment. The amendment strips out the need of a CAC card, which is called a Common Access Card that will provide integrity in our system of voting by people that are serving our country. Additionally, spouses and dependents are not in foxholes, or on military ships, or in barracks. Again, I request a ‘no’ vote on this amendment.” 59 Journal of the Senate 1053 (June 24, 2021).
Senator Hollier’s amendment was defeated by those legislators present (16-19).
Notably, a previous version of this bill extending electronic ballot submission for overseas voters (Service Members, military spouses, and eligible dependents), Senate Bill 117 (2019), was passed by the Michigan legislature in 2020 but was never presented to the governor for signature.
MSJDN has concerns with SB 311 as-written. MSJDN supports extending electronic ballot submission to overseas voters that include Service Members, military spouses, and eligible dependents. Additionally, MSJDN is concerned that Service Members may violate U.S. Department of Defense policy if using their CAC digital signature (disclosing their DoD ID number) as a U.S. Department of Defense verified signature.