Digital Accountability Suite
How Red White & Blue is your Secretary of State?
The Secretary of State has the important job of administering our elections and ensuring our democracy works for everyone
We can’t protect our air, land, water and health if we can’t make our voices heard at the ballot box. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson navigated our elections through a global pandemic with steadfast leadership and an unwavering commitment to access to the ballot. From effectively implementing new voting options with Proposal 3 in 2018, like no-reason absentee voting, secure drop boxes and early weekend voting to maintaining trust and transparency in our elections in the face of anti-democracy attacks, Secretary Benson has put voting rights at the center of her work during her time in office.
As Secretary of State Benson serves as the head elections official in Michigan, we will continue to hold her and her office accountable through this tool — “How Red, White & Blue is your Secretary of State?”
Monitoring the Secretary of State’s office and sharing it’s work with Michiganders is vital in ensuring the office is held accountable for maintaining access to the ballot and ensuring our voices are heard. Our “How Red, White & Blue” tool tracks and grades actions by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and her office relevant to voting access and a healthy democracy.
The Big Picture
Review the most recent actions we’ve tracked and scored below.
Secretary Benson Federally Advocates on the Dangers of Artificial Intelligence in Elections - Weight 1
Wednesday November 8th, 2023
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson represented the nation's secretaries of state at a federal forum on A.I. Insight on Democracy and Elections. She presented the risks associated with the use of artificial intelligence (A.I.) in elections and the need for funding at the state and federal levels to address them.
Artificial intelligence is a technology used to collect and generate information, including visual, audio, and video content. It can be a helpful tool in finding and compiling information quickly. A.I. also has the potential to negatively influence elections and voters by spreading misinformation on the candidates, voting information and locations, and purging voter rolls by challenging voter registrations. Secretary Benson focused on five ways A.I. could impact elections: (1) the ability to create and spread disinformation in hyper-targeted areas, (2) targeting populations of voters with misinformation in multiple languages, (3) increase harassment of election officials and poll workers, (4) target and challenge more voter registrations to invalidate their ballot, (5) increase in cyber attacks of voting and election systems.
In October 2023, Secretary Benson supported House bills 5141, 5143, 5144, and 5145 in the Michigan Legislature to prohibit A.I. use in campaign advertisements and communications without a disclosure of A.I. use clearly stated in the same material. These bills are now public acts in Michigan.
Michigan LCV supports Secretary Benson in her efforts to protect voters from misinformation and advocate for the harm artificial intelligence could have on fair elections.
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Secretary Benson Advances Michigan’s Own Voting Rights Act - Weight 2
Sunday July 23rd, 2023
Michigan is now in the vanguard position protecting democracy and elections in America. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and the legislature have proposed, advanced, and enacted a series of bills implementing two statewide citizen proposals expanding and protecting access to the ballot in Michigan. Under Secretary Benson’s leadership voting in Michigan has become much more convenient, accessible, and just, while maintaining the highest standards of security, and she’s not stopping there. During the summer of 2023 Secretary Benson worked with Senate partners to introduce the Michigan Voting Rights Act (Senate Bills 401-404). This series of bills were in response to ongoing attacks on the U.S. Voting Rights act, including Section 5 and the 10th anniversary of the US Supreme Court’s Shelby County Vs. Holder decision. The intent of the Act is to accomplish four objectives::
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Much work remains in perfecting and advancing the Michigan’s Voting Rights act, by scoring the introduced act Michigan LCV recognizes the critical leadership and direction Secretary Benson is moving the state - a direction where all eligible Michiganders will have free, safe, secure, and equitable access to the ballot.
- Prohibit voter denial, dilution, and/or suppression.
- Require and expand the jurisdictions that must translate election-related information into languages other than English, to ensure that language minority groups in our state have an equal opportunity to participate in the voting process.
- Enhance and clarify protections for voters with disabilities or who otherwise need assistance to vote.
- Prohibit intimidation, coercion, and deceptive practices of government and private actors with the intent or results in protected classes not participating in the election. The action can be before, during, or after the election.
HBs 4594, 4697, 4699 and SBs 370 and 372: Absentee Ballot Tracker and List, Prepaid Postage, and State Funded Drop Boxes - Weight 3
Wednesday July 5th, 2023
In partnership with both House and Senate members, SOS Benson has worked collaboratively with both chambers to ensure Proposal 2 implementation expands fair and equitable voting access in Michigan. That advocacy included support for a number of House and Senate bills that would make absentee voting more accessible to all Michigan voters, regardless of their zip code or financial status:
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HB 4594 (Rep. Wegela) would require the Secretary of State to create and implement an absentee ballot application and absentee ballot voting tracker. This will ensure voters know their application and absentee ballot’s status with the Secretary of State. HB 4699 (Rep. Byrnes) would create a permanent absentee voter list that allows voters to automatically receive an absentee ballot each year without needing to apply annually. SB 370 (Sen. Santana) would cover the costs of postage for absentee ballots and applications, eliminating a logistical and financial burden for voters and making voting by mail more accessible and efficient. HB 4697 (Rep. Koleszar) and SB 372 (Sen. Camilleri) implements the state funded dropbox requirement of Proposal 2, requiring all cities and townships to have at least one dropbox and larger ones to have 1 dropbox per 15,000 registered voters. Dropboxes are a secure, efficient, and convenient way for voters to return absentee ballots and applications and this bill helps to establish equitable access to dropboxes for all Michigan voters.
- HB 4594: Absentee Ballot Tracker
- HB 4697: State-funded Ballot Dropboxes
- HB 4699: Permanent Mail Ballot List
- SB 370: Prepaid Postage for Absentee Ballots and Applications
- SB 372: State-funded Ballot Dropboxes
Budget Advocacy: $177 million for Proposal 2 - Weight 3
Wednesday July 5th, 2023
Fully funded elections are part of Michigan’s critical infrastructure. They help to protect democracy and uplift the voices of voters. Since the passage of Proposal 2 in the November 2022 election, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has continued to defend the crucial need for the full funding for proper implementation of Proposal 2. In January, SOS Benson sent a letter to the top lawmakers and executive staff to request an estimated $150 million for the successful implementation of Proposal 2. Since then, that number has increased to $177 million.
This $177 million would implement the changes to Michigan elections that Proposal 2 institutes including:
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- $105 million: Nine days of early in-person voting (Polling locations/rental, local clerks/townships increase, equipment upgrades)
- Staff for nine days of early voting, absentee ballot processing and tabulation
- $50 million:
- State-funded dropboxes (2000+ more drop boxes are needed to meet the 1 per 15,000 voter requirement)
- $5 million: Prepaid postage for absentee ballots and applications
- $20 million:
- $3 million:
- Financial disclosure requirements
"The bottom line of all of this is the importance of fully funding our elections," … "We hope that you will work with clerks and with our team to provide predictable, sustainable and efficient funding of our elections." - Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson
HB 4695 and SB 367: 9 Days of Early In Person Voting - Weight 3
Tuesday June 6th, 2023
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has continued to work collaboratively with the House and Senate to advocate for the swift passage of Proposal 2 implementation bills. HB 4695, introduced by Representative Tsernoglou, and SB 367, introduced by Senator Moss, would implement the early voting provision of Proposal 2, further expanding Michigan voters’ options for casting a ballot.
“The bills discussed today carry out the will of the voters while providing the flexibility needed by clerks in counties, cities, and townships of all sizes and geographies across the state.” - SOS Benson (June 6, 2023 during Senate Elections)
These bills would codify the minimum requirement for nine days of early voting for all statewide and federal elections. SOS Benson has testified in support of these bills in front of both the House and Senate elections committees as they would allow municipal and county agreements to conduct early voting, providing local clerks the opportunity to choose a model of early voting that works best for their jurisdictions.
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