Johnson wins four more years as Secretary of State

By Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News
Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson addresses supporters during a campaign stop in Detroit.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson thanked supporters as she declared victory Tuesday over Democratic opponent Godfrey Dillard.

"I want to thank you so much, I can't tell you how excited and pleased I am that I get to be your secretary of state for the great state of Michigan for four more years," said Johnson.

During the campaign, the Holly Republican emphasized her service record and stressed she has shortened lines to renew driver's licenses, while Dillard, a Detroit attorney, said he wanted the office to concentrate more on expanding voting opportunities while taking a different approach to improving service at Secretary of State offices.

Johnson, 59, argued she made more transactions available online and shortened wait times in SOS offices even though she has 25 percent fewer staffers than a decade ago and has had to cut her budget 20 percent.

She created a pilot program at Meijer and two other stores, which she hopes to expand, where customers "can buy milk, bread, fishing poles and your tabs right there." The driver's license transactions occur at a self-service station in the store.

Johnson added she has been an advocate for election reform, advocating to allow residents to vote absentee for any reason — compared with current requirements that include covering those 60 and older.

Dillard had argued the Secretary of State's Office should eliminate its small, inadequate offices in strip malls and follow the lead of states like Georgia by consolidating offices and creating larger regional service centers where there is adequate parking, seating and facilities to quicken service times.

The 66-year-old former Foreign Services officer said he could make this change without increasing the budget.

After the result of the election came in, Dillard said he wasn't discouraged.

"I want to change the way we vote in Michigan," he said, saying he had called for same-day registration, mail-in voting and easier voting. "These are the kinds of changes we need in Michigan to move us forward."

Dillard said he will look for other ways to serve citizens of Detroit and Wayne County: "I think my ideas will come to fruition."

Melody Baetens and David Shepardson contributed