Opinion: A historic moment for Michigan voters

Jocelyn Benson

Now, more than ever, it is easier to vote and harder to cheat in Michigan.  

In November 2018, millions of citizens voted to amend our state constitution to significantly expand the accessibility and security of our elections. My team and I have worked tirelessly with our bureau of elections and our more than 1,600 local and county clerks over the past year to implement these new changes and prepare for this year’s momentous elections. 

Jocelyn Benson

And we are ready. 

Our preparation began my first week in office when we formally joined ERIC, the Electronic Registration Information Center, a national nonprofit dedicated to voter-roll accuracy. As a member of ERIC we now have more tools as we partner with our local elections officials to clean up our voter rolls — for example, when voters die or move out of the state. Better, more regular data gives us the ability to make our voter registration files cleaner than perhaps ever before. 

We’ve also instituted automatic voter registration for all citizens who apply for driver’s licenses and IDs with us, and launched an online voter registration system so Michiganians can easily register and check their registration to make sure it is up to date. Both of these tools help us keep the voter rolls complete and up to date with reliable, voter-provided information. Further, every Michigan voter now has the right to vote from home by mail, and we are working with every clerk in the state to help ensure they have the resources they need to handle the expected record turnout. 

It is truly a new day for democracy in Michigan. 

But as we begin a year overseeing three significant statewide elections, it will not be without its challenges. 

First will be the battle of misinformation. This year, perhaps more than any other, voters will be inundated by efforts to confuse them — about the election process, their rights, and the issues at stake. These efforts — be they foreign, domestic, partisan, or simply malicious — are designed to sow mistrust in our elections process and are antithetical to a healthy democracy. Fighting back against them is critical to ensuring our elections are a secure and accurate reflection of the will of the people. Voters must be vigilant against any and all attempts to “hack” their minds with scare tactics and other attempts to lessen their faith or confidence in our elections. They must proactively seek out reliable sources of information and encourage productive dialogue.   

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson chats with Frank McGhee, of Detroit, at the SOS branch office at Cadillac Place, in Detroit, April 11, 2019.  Benson announced plans to improve wait times and services at SOS branches across the state.

Our second challenge is to form partnerships at the federal, state and local level to ensure we have “all hands on deck,” working in coordination to ensure all legitimate ballots are cast and counted efficiently and securely, and that every voice is heard.

That’s why we’ve formed two task forces, one on election security and the other on election administration, to ensure we are collaborating with leaders at every level, solving problems together and united in support of running voter-centric, smooth elections. We’ve also hired the state’s first full-time election security expert, expanded audits of our voting machines, and strengthened our partnership with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal partners.

Because of these and other efforts, we enter the 2020 election cycle prepared to ensure that every legitimate vote cast is counted securely and efficiently. 

But make no mistake, it will take all of us — every voter, candidate, clerk, and elected official in the state — to work together if we are to fully succeed in making Michigan’s elections the most accessible and secure in the country. Now is not the time for partisan gamesmanship or political dirty tricks. Rather, as we enter the 2020 election cycle in earnest, it is time for us to come together and resist any attempts to delegitimize our elections or silence the voice of our voters.

Our democracy deserves no less.

Jocelyn Benson is Michigan’s 43rd Secretary of State.