Democratic Secretary of State candidate pushes for more election security

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The Democratic candidate for Secretary of State has called for massive changes in the world of elections in Michigan.

Jocelyn Benson, of Detroit, announced Tuesday through a press call that she wants to ‘improve elections’ through a five-point system. Benson said these new plans come during fear over election security.

Current Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s Spokesperson Fred Woodhams said most of the ideas Benson is proposing are already being implemented statewide.

Risk-Limiting Post-Election Audits

Benson said this will ensure ballots are being counted correctly in all elections. She said her model is mirrored from the plan in Colorado, which is the only state to implement these post-election audits.

“The RLA also provides a high probability of discovering and taking appropriate action in the case of a wrong outcome,” Benson explained.

Woodhams explained that Colorado is the only state to do such practices, adding that the elections in Colorado are mail-in systems.

“It’s very new, an interesting idea, but we have a very different election system,” Woodhams said.

Woodhams did add that ballot validation will be done for the first time across the state following the general election in November.

“This will include and count validation to ensure everything matches,” Woodhams explained.

Improved Poll Worker Training, Recruitment and Accountability

The Democratic SOS candidate said this plan comes with the intent of ensuring all election workers are trained properly and equally. Benson also said improving the training will better ensure ballots are counted accurately.

For this idea, Woodhams said it’s challenging to train the thousands of election workers each year. He said under Secretary Johnson’s leadership, the state has added online training sessions for election workers, as well as the in-person training sessions.

“Clerks must receive training every two years,” Woodhams explained. “And election day workers, the 390,000 workers, must be re-certified every two years.”

Convene an Election Security Commission

Benson has proposed a new election security commission that will be comprised of industry experts to advise Michigan on ways to better secure elections. This new commission would hold town halls to gather input from Michiganders and perhaps even create a new office within the Secretary of State’s Office.

“The goal would be to come up with a better election infrastructure and a long-term funding plan,” she outlined.

On this proposal, Woodhams said the Johnson’s Office hadn’t had much time to review the idea and didn’t have a position.

New Penalties for Equipment Tampering

This idea sounds tough. Benson said she plans to increase the penalties for anyone who tampers with voting systems or machines. In a press release sent out Tuesday, Benson said she will “specifically work to make it a felony to tamper with voting systems or devices, or equipment on which a vote is cast and counted, which will go a long way in deterring would-be hackers from tampering with Michigan’s voting systems.”

When asked if Benson was aware of any instances in Michigan of election equipment tampering, she said no.

“But I want to make it known to anyone that Michigan is not a place to tamper with,” she said.

Woodhams said it’s already a felony to tamper with election equipment in Michigan.

Strengthen Accuracy of Qualified Voter File

Benson wants to move Michigan to a different election registration system, known as the Electronic Registration Information Center, ERIC. Benson said this system is an interstate data system that will help the Secretary of State better track registered voters.

“There have been cancellation countdowns and postcards being sent, but I think there have been instances where accuracy has been an issue,” she explained.

Woodhams said ERIC is a reputable system and whomever becomes the next Secretary of State, will decide the best practice moving forward.

Ultimately, Benson said the reason behind her call for change within the department is to ensure Michigan voters feel like their vote is safe.

“I want to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” she said. “For me, voting must remain a sacred right and every legitimate vote must be counted and my plan will ensure that happens.”

Benson is likely to get nominated Sunday, August 26 during the Michigan Democratic Party Nominating Convention. Following a successful bid there, she will face the Republican nominee who gets chosen during the Republican Party Convention Saturday, August 25 in the general election in November. Mary Treder Lang and Joseph Guzman are both running for the nominee on the GOP ticket. Incumbent Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is not eligible for re-election due to term limits.


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