Secretary of State

Secretary of State

Samantha Butcher

With one month left until the 2010 midterm elections, Democrats and Republicans are fighting tooth and nail for control of the House, Senate and state governments. One key race at the state level in Michigan is the Secretary of State, a position second only to the governor. Republican Terri Lynn Land currently occupies the office, but in November either Jocelyn Benson, D-Detroit, or Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, will clinch the position.

The race for Secretary of State is one of the most open races in the state. According to information released on Sept. 16 by the Wayne County Election Examiner, Johnson was in the lead with 31 percent of voters. 25 percent of voters said they planned to vote for Benson on Nov. 2, while the rest were undecided.

Johnson currently serves as the Oakland County Clerk/Register of Deeds. In the past, she has served on the Oakland County Board of Commissioners and in the Michigan House of Representatives. Her campaign has focused in on election reforms. She said she believes that only Michigan residents should be able to vote in Michigan elections and has proposed giving legal non-citizens special IDs that show they cannot vote. Johnson, who describes herself as a fiscal and social conservative, also wants to end early voting in Michigan.

Benson teaches election law at Wayne State University and recently published a book on the role of the Secretary of State titled “State Secretaries of State: Guardians of the Democratic Process.” She also served as the voting rights policy coordinator of the Harvard Civil Rights Project from 2002 to 2004, which helped pass the Help America Vote Act.

Benson plans to make voting more accessible for citizens by modernizing voter registration and allowing in-person early voting and no-reason absentee voting. She also wants to allow drivers to register their plates for multiple years at a time.

Both candidates believe that foreign money should not be allowed to influence election campaigns.