Finley and Jacques: Benson would bring expertise to SOS role

Editor's note: The Detroit News is making recommendations in a number of state and local races on the Nov. 6 election ballot. To maximize our resources and give our readers a more balanced and comprehensive view of the candidates and issues, The News is using a different approach this year. Some of the selections will bear the traditional endorsement of the newspaper’s editorial board. In other races, we'll offer the personal recommendations of our editorial columnists, Nolan Finley and Ingrid Jacques, along with columns from alternative viewpoints. As always, our mission is to provide our readers with the resources to help them make informed choices on Election Day.

There's no other other branch of state government that citizens interact with more than the Secretary of State’s Office. Whether it’s renewing vehicle tabs or registering to vote, it’s hard to avoid fairly regular encounters with the department -- and those experiences aren’t always pleasant.

While the past few secretaries of state of made big strides to smooth operations and reduce wait times at branch offices, there’s more work to do in becoming more responsive to its customers. 

Read more: Miller: Mary Treder Lang the only choice for secretary of state

We think Jocelyn Benson is best prepared to further advance the Secretary of State's Office. 

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson

The Detroit Democrat, who formerly ran for the position in 2010, has been running for the job seemingly forever -- she sought the position in 2010 but was defeated by Ruth Johnson.

Still, her background and experience have prepared her for the role. She is the former dean of Wayne State University Law School, and is currently chief executive of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, a national nonprofit that seeks to improve race relations and understanding through sports.

Benson has made herself an expert in election law and administration, and she even wrote a book about Secretary of State Offices and the role they play nationally in safe and secure elections. She traveled the country, interviewing secretaries of state from both parties and gathered a wealth of information regarding how to improve this state’s operations.

Now she wants to put those ideas into practice. 

She promises a 30-minute (or less) guarantee for service at a Secretary of State branch office. She wants to harness technology, including introducing an app that could help alleviate headaches that often accompany office visits. Benson has  said she’d fight against vehicle fee increases.

Election security is high on Benson’s list. She says she’d work to ensure Michigan’s elections are safe from tampering. She also wants to make sure every vote is counted, and has plans to devote more time to training clerks and poll workers. “We need to make it easier to vote, but harder to cheat,” she says

As a military spouse, Benson has learned first hand the challenges active military members face when attempting to vote while serving overseas. That’s something Michigan should improve, and Benson’s got good ideas for how to do that.

Benson stresses that she wants to be collaborative and nonpartisan in her work if elected. We do have some concerns with her role as a board member of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is decidedly partisan.

Mary Treder Lang, a Republican from Grosse Pointe, is the Republican candidate. She brings a strong background in business and leadership. She’s a certified public accountant with management experience and has worked in computer security and business development.

Gov. Rick Snyder also appointed her to the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents.

She stresses respecting citizens’ time and improving customer relations. Treder Lang advocates using technology to streamline online offerings, in addition to giving the website an upgrade.

Treder Lang, who was appointed to the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents by Gov. Rick Snyder, would also prioritize election security and ensuring “one citizen, one vote.”

She's a good candidate, but Benson's experience and expertise make her the better choice.