MI Secretary of State

Over 100 participants receive driver’s license restoration assistance at Muskegon clinic

Muskegon hosts Michigan Department of State’s sixth Road to Restoration clinic of 2024

MUSKEGON, Mich. – The Michigan Department of State (MDOS) and partners hosted a successful Road to Restoration clinic at Muskegon Community College on May 22, assisting over 100 local participants in navigating the process to restoring their driving privileges. This was the sixth Road to Restoration clinic in the state this year.

At Wednesday’s clinic, expert MDOS staff and volunteer attorneys held one-on-one sessions with attendees to check their current license status, answer questions on how they can safely return behind the wheel and provide services like vision testing and the written driver’s exam on site. While residents who attend a Road to Restoration clinic may be required to pay past fines, the expertise and guidance is free of charge. 

“I’m thrilled to see the continued success of our Road to Restoration clinics and grateful to our partners who help us bring this valuable service directly to people in their communities,” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said. “I am proud of our team, but even more proud of the Michiganders making the effort to improve their lives and learning the steps to safely return to the road.”

The Road to Restoration program, now in its third year, is operated in partnership with the Michigan Department of Attorney General, Michigan 2-1-1, Detroit Justice Center, DTE, Michigan Association of United Ways, Michigan WORKS!, and Miller Canfield.

MDOS and partners launched the Road to Restoration clinic series after the enactment of the Clean Slate to Drive laws, which terminated certain violations and infractions from the records of thousands of Michigan drivers in 2021. 

The remaining clinics are scheduled for 2024:
June 5 – Flint
June 18 – Detroit
July 16 – Petoskey
July 18 – Gaylord
Aug. 13 – Houghton
Aug. 14 – Kingsford
Aug. 16 – Marquette
Aug. 28 – Dearborn Heights
Sept. 13 – Kalamazoo

For more information about the program, to find a clinic near you, or to sign up for an upcoming clinic, visit Michigan.gov/R2R or dial 2-1-1. Space for clinics may be limited and pre-registration is strongly recommended. The clinics do not provide DUI expungement services and license reinstatement is not guaranteed.

Contact: Cheri Hardmon
(517) 643-7236

Watercraft Registration Renewal

Watercraft registration renewal can be completed online or at self-service stations

Customers can quickly and easily renew their watercraft registration online or at one of 160 conveniently located self-service stations statewide.

“We continue to make doing business with the Secretary of State as convenient as possible,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “Watercraft renewals are just one of the many services you can now complete from the comfort of your home, or while you’re shopping at your local grocery store.”

Customers renew their watercraft registration online by visiting Michigan.gov/SOS, clicking the link for online services, and choosing from two options for renewing watercraft:

  • An online express option for quick renewals.
  • An online authenticated renewal process, which allows customers to access their customer record and conduct other transactions along with their watercraft renewal. They also may print a copy of their renewed registration.

Watercraft registrations are renewed on a three-year cycle and expire on March 31 of the third year. Residents due for a watercraft renewal will be mailed a courtesy reminder in February.

All watercraft, including those on privately owned lakes and waterways, must be registered, except for the following:

  • Watercraft measuring 16 feet or less in length, propelled by oars or paddles that aren’t used for rental or commercial purposes.
  • Nonmotorized canoes and kayaks not used for rental or commercial purposes.
  • Rafts, surfboards, sailboards and swim floats, regardless of length.
  • Watercraft registered in another state and used only temporarily in Michigan.

Residents can learn more about services offered online at Michigan.gov/SOS.

Register in Person at your Local Clerk to Vote in Aug. 3 Election

submitted by the Michigan Secretary of State

Michigan residents who want to vote in their local election next month and have not yet registered can still do so in person at their clerk’s offices up to 8 p.m. on Election Day, Aug. 3. Those in the 54 counties with elections who need the location of their clerk’s office or local drop boxes, or other voter information, can visit Michigan.gov/Vote.

“With local elections in many jurisdictions under two weeks away, it is not too late to register to vote,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “Michigan voters have multiple options to ensure their voices are heard in their local communities and registering to vote is the first step.”

To register to vote in person, residents must bring their proof of residency to their local election clerk’s office, where they can also be issued a ballot, vote it, and return it to the clerk in the same visit.

Those who already have a ballot at home should fill it out, sign the back of the envelope and return it in person to their clerk’s office or to a drop box as soon as possible. Registered voters can vote early with an absentee ballot at their clerk’s office now through Aug. 2, or at their polling place on Election Day, Aug. 3.

For more election information, including the location of the local clerk’s office, area drop boxes, and sample ballots, voters can visit Michigan.gov/Vote.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson Recognizes May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

Motorcyclists are Hard to See. Look Twice. Save a Life.

In recognition of May as national Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is encouraging drivers to exercise extra caution when driving as motorcyclists take to the road during warm weather months.

“As motorcycle traffic increases across the state, all drivers should take extra care to prevent crashes every time they get behind the wheel,” Benson said. “The simple act of taking a second look before making a turn or double-checking your blind spots can prevent crashes and save lives.”

A rider and motorcycle present a smaller profile compared to the size of most cars and trucks, meaning many drivers overlook them or do not immediately recognize them as part of traffic flow. Though it is commonly thought that motorcyclist crashes occur most often on highways, 84 percent of motorcycle-vehicle crashes actually happen on city streets. Michigan motorists are urged to remain aware of motorcyclists at all times, and especially in high-risk situations, including when changing lanes or making a left turn.

The Secretary of State’s “Look Twice — Save a Life” program aims to promote motorcycle awareness, safety and education for motorists. Drivers are encouraged to visit Michigan.gov/LookTwice for more information and safety tips.

Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission Launches Online Portal for Public Comment

Beginning May 5, 2021, Michigan residents have a new way to participate in the Michigan Independent Redistricting Committee’s (MICRC) work with the launch of a public comment portal that will make it easy for residents to submit written comments, draw or upload maps and more.

“Robust public input is vital to the MICRC’s work of drawing fair districts representative of all Michiganders”, said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “The MICRC is making it easy for anyone in Michigan to be a part of history and participate in this citizen-led redistricting effort.”

The public comment portal is a one-stop shop for members of the public to engage in the redistricting process. This comprehensive tool was developed in partnership with the MGGG Redistricting Lab, a nonpartisan research group at Tisch College of Tufts University and procured by the Michigan Department of State (MDOS). The public comment portal enables members of the public to easily do the following:

Submit written public comments
Draw and submit a Community of Interest map
Draw and submit a complete or partial district map (Congressional, Michigan House and Michigan Senate)
Upload or link to a map/shapefile or document
Comment on other maps or submissions

Commissioners and the public will be able to see submissions and comments in real time. The public comment portal can be found at Michigan.gov/MICRC by selecting the “Visit the Public Comment Portal” button.

Members of the public are encouraged to use the public comment portal to submit materials, however, the Commission will continue to receive email, mail and/or paper submissions and comments from the public. MDOS will continue to provide these comments to the Commission and upload them to the website for public viewing regularly.

More information about upcoming meetings and public hearings of the MICRC can be found at Michigan.gov/MICRC.

Secretary Benson Announces New Era of Improved Customer Service Operations

On April 29, 2021, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced the Michigan Department of State (MDOS) has entered a new service-driven era of operations that is more convenient and efficient for customers. She noted that the majority of transactions can now be carried out from home or at a grocery store, and residents who are required to visit a Secretary of State Office are typically in and out in 20 minutes.

“Michiganders can now complete most of their transactions online, by mail or at one of our new self-service stations located at their local grocery store,” Benson said. “And the remaining in-person transactions are carried out by appointment, ensuring the vast majority of customers have little to no wait time.”

More than 60 percent of transactions are already conducted outside of branch offices — up from 30 percent in 2019 — and this year more than 1 million people have already visited department offices. Benson noted that since MDOS began operating by appointment in June of last year, its ratings on Google have doubled — from two to four stars on a five-star scale — and are higher than they have ever been. Many Michiganders have asked for the department to continue operating by appointment, and Benson said their wish is coming true.

“We’re going to listen to the people on this,” said Benson. “It’s clear they do not want us to go backwards to the old way of doing things, where on any given day you could spend hours waiting for a basic transaction in any given branch office. The branch office by appointment model is working and yes, it is a new way of doing things. But it’s a better way of doing things.”

Benson acknowledged that the system still needs to be improved, as some customers find it challenging to book appointments. To help remedy that, she announced MDOS is increasing its offering of appointments by at least 10 percent, or 35,000 appointments per month, and in the coming weeks will dedicate call center staff to booking online appointments for residents with internet limitations.

Benson also announced her Service Driven Legislative Agenda, and called on legislative leaders to implement reforms that would enable customers to interact less frequently and more efficiently with the department. She called on the state Legislature to allow remote driver’s license testing, stop requiring veterans with the military equivalent of a commercial driver’s license to retrain and retest for a civilian CDL, and provide funding and authority for the department to develop innovative public-private partnerships to improve operations.

“We need lawmakers to join us as innovators in furthering a vision for the people of Michigan and pass needed reforms that will help us improve customer convenience and satisfaction,” said Benson. “That means pushing forward and implementing modern, best practices and available technology along with innovative ideas that support Michiganders in ways that work best for them.”

To access online services, locate a self-service station in your area or make a branch office appointment, visit Michigan.gov/SOS.

Absentee Ballots should be Returned in Person, Via Drop Box for May 4 Elections

Visit Michigan.gov/Vote for election information

Voters in jurisdictions with an election on May 4 should return their absentee ballots as soon as possible, either by drop box or in person at their local city or township clerk’s office. Those who have not yet requested a ballot, or have requested one but have not received it, should visit their clerk’s office to request, fill out and submit their ballot all in one trip. Voters can find the operating hours, contact information and locations of their local clerk’s office and drop boxes at Michigan.gov/Vote.

“Michigan voters have options to cast their ballot in person or absentee, with each being equally accessible and secure,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “Millions of citizens made their voices heard using absentee ballots and drop boxes last year, and voters can do so again in their local elections now.”

Absentee ballot requests sent by mail must be received by the clerk by 5 p.m. today, though voters have until 4 p.m. on Monday, May 3 to request an absentee ballot in person at their local clerk’s office. This close to the election, because of possible postal delays voters should not mail absentee ballots.

Voters who already have their ballot should fill it out at home, sign the back of the envelope and return it to a secure ballot drop box in their jurisdiction or their clerk’s office as soon as possible. Voters may also allow an immediate family member or a member of their household to drop off their sealed and signed ballot for them. All ballots must be received by the voter’s city or township clerk by 8 p.m. on Election Day, May 4, to be counted.

Voters will also have the option to vote in person at their designated polling location, where COVID-19 prevention safeguards — including social distancing and the use of personal protection equipment by election workers — remain in place.

Voters can find out if they have a May 4 election, track their absentee ballot, find their drop box and clerk office locations, and view sample ballots at Michigan.gov/Vote.

Benson Announces Transparency Agenda to Bolster Public Confidence in Government

To launch Sunshine Week, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson yesterday announced her legislative agenda to increase government transparency in Michigan.

“My legislative agenda would take Michigan from worst to first in government transparency, shine the light on dark money in politics and stop public corruption,” said Benson. “These are things lawmakers must do if they are serious about rebuilding public trust in our elected government.”

The Center for Public Integrity in 2015 ranked Michigan 50th among all states in government transparency. Benson, a longtime advocate for transparency, announced that her From Worst to First legislative agenda would increase trust in state government by doing the following:

Demanding Transparency
• Expand the Freedom of Information Act so it applies to the Governor and the state Legislature.
• Require personal financial disclosures from elected officials.
• Require more frequent campaign disclosure than the current quarterly requirement.

Shining Light on Dark Money
• Require all PACs, Super PACs and 527 committees to report and close the administrative account loophole by requiring reporting of all receipts and disbursements.
• End the “Express Advocacy” reporting exception by creating a threshold definition for electioneering in the Michigan Campaign Finance Act.
• Tighten LLC reporting requirements to ensure secret and foreign money does not enter our elections.

Stopping Corruption
• Ban foreign money in Michigan elections, as state law only bars it from super PACs.
• Require a 2-year period between leaving elected office and working as a lobbyist.
• Require former legislators who are doing “legislative consulting” to register and report as lobbyists.
• Eliminate the potential for quid-pro-quo corruption and “pay to play” by banning companies (and associated individuals with a controlling interest) that receive state grants or contracts from making political contributions.
• Enforce the Conflict of Interest Act (Act 318) to identify legislative conflicts of interest.

“State lawmakers can demonstrate real leadership by passing strong, enforceable legislation that would create true government transparency and accountability,” said Benson. “I look forward to working with them to that end, while my administration and our department continue to operate in full transparency.”

Benson noted that the Department of State and all state departments are subject to the Freedom of Information Act already, and that her administration launched the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission with complete transparency, made public the list of 177,000 voter registrations slated for cancellation more than a month in advance and worked with clerks on both sides of the aisle to conduct more than 250 audits of the November election – more than ever before in state history.

Benson also said that, this year, the Bureau of Elections will launch a new campaign finance filing system on its website that will make it easier for the public to track the finances of candidates.

NASS Political Courage Award Given Posthumously to Viola Gregg Liuzzo of Michigan

Freedom March volunteer was killed by KKK in 1965, sparked change


Photo L-R: Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, NASS President & Iowa Secre­tary of State Paul Pate, Mr. Dan Lilleboe, Ms. Mary Liuzzo Lilleboe and Ms. Ainka Jackson. Photo credit: Philip Smith.

Washington, D.C. — The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) has presented the 2019 Margaret Chase Smith American Democracy Award for political courage posthu­mously to Ms. Viola Gregg Liuzzo. During the Saturday, Feb. 1, ceremony, the award was accepted by Ms. Liuzzo’s daughter, Ms. Mary Liuzzo Lilleboe.

In 1965, Ms. Liuzzo, a 39-year-old white, middle-class mother of five living in Detroit, saw the gruesome footage of the Bloody Sunday attacks on voting rights protestors in Alabama. As a Wayne State University student and a member of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, she participated in local protests after the first Freedom March, but felt com­pelled to do more. She answered Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to action and drove south to join the second wave of protestors.

Upon her arrival in Alabama, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference welcomed her help, and she was tasked with transporting volunteers and aid. On the final night of the Freedom March, she was shuttling volunteers between the cities of Selma and Montgomery along with Mr. Leroy Moton when the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) apprehended her car on the highway and fatally shot her.

As a martyr of the civil rights movement, Ms. Liuzzo’s death sparked change. In the days immediately following her murder, President Lyndon B. Johnson called for a Congressional investigation of the KKK, and the Klansmen who killed her were eventually convicted in court. The tragedy of her death also helped pave the way for the passage of the 1965 Vot­ing Rights Act just five months later.

“Viola Liuzzo lived a life of true heroism and courage and our democracy is better for it. The sacrifice she and her family made has inspired an entire generation to take up her cause and to ensure that no voice goes unheard and no vote goes uncounted,” said Michi­gan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson who nominated Ms. Liuzzo for the award.

New Self-service Stations Offer Customer Transactions in English, Spanish or Arabic

LANSING – The new, dependable and easy-to-use self-service stations being installed across the state to replace old, unreliable and frequently malfunctioning Secretary of State kiosks offer another technological advantage: the option for customers to complete their transactions in English, Spanish or Arabic.

The new self-service stations, 60 of which have been installed since Oct. 27, were initially programmed for English and Spanish. They received a software update Dec. 13 that added the Arabic language option. To date, more than 75,000 registration renewal transactions have been completed in English, more than 450 in Spanish and more than 70 in Arabic.

“We are committed to improving customer experience for everyone who interacts with our department,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “We’ve heard the call from communities for better language access, and plan to continue translating additional documents in the future.”

Since Secretary Benson took office, the department has taken steps to make more translations available. Documents now offered in Spanish and Arabic include:
Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission application
Driver’s license and ID card application
Driver’s license and ID requirements checklist

Foreign language-speaking community representatives with suggestions on additional documents that would be helpful to translate can contact the Office of Communications at 517-335-3264 or SOS-News@Michigan.gov.

The self-service station upgrade project is replacing all 93 of the department’s outmoded kiosks by the end of January and adding 57 more, for a total of 150, by the end of April. In addition to Secretary of State branch offices, many of the new stations will be in grocery stores such as Kroger and Meijer, meeting customers where they already are doing business. Customers can find an up-to-date list of locations at Michigan.gov/SOSSelfService.

Customers Complete 100,000 Transactions on New Secretary of State Self-service Stations

New kiosk locations include many Kroger and Meijer stores

customerLANSING, January 16, 2020 – Customers have successfully completed more than 100,000 transactions on the new self-service stations that have been installed since Oct. 27, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced today.

The 100,000th transaction in the program was completed at 9:23 a.m. Tuesday on the kiosk at the Brownstown Township branch office in Wayne County when Kevin O’Hagan of Lincoln Park renewed registrations for his truck and his wife AnMarie’s vehicle. He was pleased with the new technology he encountered.

“It went relatively easy and quick. I liked it,” he said. “I had a lot of trouble at the older ones.”

Outdated and unreliable self-service stations are being replaced statewide and many of the new stations are being placed in Kroger and Meijer grocery stores, meeting customers where they already are doing business. To date, 71 new machines have been installed. By the end of January, all 93 existing kiosks will be replaced and another 57 more will be added by the end of April, increasing the number of stations by more than 60 percent.

Most of the stations are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For an up-to-date listing of locations with the new self-service stations, visit Michigan.gov/SOSSelfService.

Benson Announces Zaineb A. Hussein as Deputy Chief of Staff

zhusseinLANSING – On February 3, 2020 – Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced that Zaineb A. Hussein would serve as Michigan Department of State deputy chief of staff starting Feb. 10.

“Zaineb brings a combination of government, policy and engagement experience and insight that will serve our team tremendously,” said Benson. “She has exceptional knowledge of how to work with people to advance common agendas, which will benefit the department’s employees and the many customers and communities we interact with across the state.”

Hussein was formerly deputy director of external affairs for Wayne County, serving more than 1.7 million people in 43 communities that make up Michigan’s most populous county, and the 19th most populous county in the United States. In this capacity, she directed diversity, inclusion and equity work; led planning efforts for the 2020 Census; and oversaw strategy and activities to support immigrants, refugees and minority communities.

Hussein’s previous experience includes working in the Michigan Department of Human Services, State Senate District 5, and the City of Dearborn Heights. She serves on the board of the Michigan Health Endowment Fund and eMgage. She previously served on the board of the League of Women Voters. Governor Gretchen Whitmer appointed her to the 2020 Census statewide Complete Count Committee. Hussein holds a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from the University of Michigan, and a master’s degree in counseling from Spring Arbor University.

“I look forward to helping Secretary Benson and her administration achieve their goals in the coming years,” said Hussein. “Increasing voter participation and better serving all Michiganders as they interact with state government is critical to our democracy and directly aligns with my passion and values.”

Hussein replaces Sarah Gonzales Triplett.

Absentee Ballots are Now Available for March Presidential Primary Election

Get application from local clerk or at Michigan.gov/Vote

LANSING – Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced today that absent voter ballots are available with clerks across the state so voters can now request an absentee ballot for the presidential primary election.

Due to the constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2018, all eligible and registered voters in Michigan may request an absent voter ballot without providing a reason. They can visit their local clerk’s office for an absent voter ballot application or download one at Michigan.gov/Vote.

There is no political party registration requirement and any Michigan registered voter can participate in the presidential primary on March 10. At the polling place and on the absentee ballot application, voters will be asked to select a presidential primary ballot for either the Democratic or Republican parties that also may contain local election items. Voters who do not wish to participate in the presidential primary may request a ballot that contains only local items.

Benson and Clerks: No Ballot Changes Within 75 Days of Elections

Bipartisan group asks Legislature for resolution to help clerks get ballots to voters on time

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and a bipartisan group of clerks today called on the state Legislature to pass a joint resolution promising that no new questions will be placed on ballots within 75 days of an election. The current deadline for the Legislature to add ballot questions is 60 days, leaving only 20 subsequent days for numerous processes to take place before the first absentee ballots must be mailed to voters. The 40-day deadline is part of the constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2018.

“The deadlines leading up to elections make it extremely difficult for local, county and state election officials, along with vendors, to ensure that voters can receive absentee ballots in accordance with their constitutional rights,” said Benson. “Although the 60-day deadline and newly created 40-day deadline are both in the Michigan Constitution, the Legislature can take action now to support clerks by adopting a joint resolution promising to put questions on the ballot no later than the 75th day before an election.”

Better Than 30

Benson: Appointments achieve promise but more work to do

LANSING — December 12, 2019 – Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson today announced that by making appointments available statewide she has achieved her promise to get Michiganders in and out of Secretary of State offices in 30 minutes or less, but that her administration must and will do much more work to improve the customer experience overall.

“When I ran for this office, I committed to offering appointments statewide to guarantee we could get anyone in and out of a branch office in less than 30 minutes. I am proud that pledge is now in place and any Michigander who plans ahead can do business at a branch office in under 30 minutes.” Benson said. “That does not mean our job is done. We have a lot more work to do. We have severe structural problems and inefficiencies that were decades in the making, and I am committed to implementing long-term solutions to streamline and modernize our services.”

Customers with appointments do not wait in line at all. They are asked to arrive a few minutes before their appointment time and will be called to complete their transactions. Customers can make an appointment online at Michigan.gov/SOSAppointments or by calling 888-SOS-MICH. Regardless of where customers live, they can schedule an appointment at any office in the state, and it is recommended they look at multiple branches in locations convenient for them, and do so far in advance of when they want to visit.

Secretary Benson Visits Israel with Bipartisan Delegation

December 16, 2019 – Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is currently visiting Israel as part of a bipartisan delegation from the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) that is examining cybersecurity policies and practices to better protect election administration, business services and other areas.

NASS is partnering with the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange in the weeklong education seminar, which is also intended to enhance U.S. relations with Israel among state officials. Participants are learning about Israel’s history, culture, challenges and innovations; and meeting leaders from across the nation, including top officials from Israel’s National Cyber Directorate.

“My administration is committed to ensuring our elections are secure, so that all Michiganders can vote with certainty that their vote will be counted and their voice will be heard,” said Benson. “I am honored to have the opportunity to visit Israel during this historic time and to work with my colleagues this week to ensure our efforts to protect our elections in the United States are fully informed and following best practices.

“I look forward to returning to Michigan later this week with a robust understanding of the global challenges facing election security, and the work we can do in our country and internationally to meet them.”

Benson Announces Adam Reames as Legislative Policy Director

LANSING — December 23, 2019 – Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson today announced that Adam Reames will serve as the Michigan Department of State’s legislative policy director starting Jan. 6. Reames has been the assistant secretary of the Michigan Senate for more than 10 years.

“Adam’s years of experience and tremendous knowledge of the Legislature, combined with his passion for our work, will be of great benefit to our team,” said Benson. “The relationships and respect he’s built on both sides of the aisle will be a great asset as we continue to work with the Legislature to strengthen Michigan’s democracy and modernize the way we serve and support the millions of Michiganders who do business with us each year.”

At the Michigan Senate, Reames oversaw legislative procedures, training for new members and daily operations of the nonpartisan staff. Prior to that work, he held several policy and lobbying positions with organizations including Dykema Gossett, the Michigan House of Representatives, and the Michigan Department of Transportation. Reames also has a law degree from Wayne State University, a Master of Public Policy degree from Claremont Graduate University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, where he studied political science.

“I am excited to be joining Secretary Benson and her administration,” said Reames. “I look forward to putting my knowledge of the Legislature in support of the Secretary’s vision to benefit the citizens of Michigan.”

Reames replaces Jonathan Brater as the department’s legislative policy director. Brater will take over as director of the Michigan Bureau of Elections on Jan. 2.

Department of State Collegiate Student Advisory Task Force Delivers Recommendations on Youth Engagement

Nonpartisan group calls for voter education and increased access

LANSING — December 18, 2019 – Members of the Department of State Student Advisory Task Force today delivered preliminary recommendations to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on how to improve voter engagement among young people and college students.

The Department of State formed this first-of-its-kind nonpartisan task force of college, community college and university students this past fall. The task force includes 32 students from 23 colleges, community colleges and universities throughout Michigan with hometowns across the state.

Historically, students in Michigan have faced significant barriers to voting and participated in elections at lower rates than other age groups. The task force was established to combat this historic participation gap and to advise the Department of State on the barriers and solutions to youth engagement in Michigan.

“I’m proud of the work our student task force did this year to identify barriers and offer solutions for students and young people across the state of Michigan.” Secretary Jocelyn Benson said. “They call on all of us to do our part, and I look forward to working with leaders across the state to level barriers for young voters.”

The report catalogs numerous barriers impacting youth and student voters at the state, local, university and individual levels. For each barrier, the students recommend solutions. Suggested best practices and recommendations are included at the end of the report.

The report details many different solutions to improve student engagement in our democracy, including the following highlights:

1. Voter Education – The importance of youth voter education on both how to vote and why voting matters repeatedly came up in task force discussions. Members recommend that all leaders at the local, K-12, higher education and state government levels consider how they could more effectively educate students about their voting rights through various reforms or initiatives.

2. On-Campus Resources – Students on the task force recommend each school and university should feature either satellite clerk offices or on-campus polling location(s), and the Department of State should increase the use of the mobile Secretary of State branch office on campuses. This was the single category of recommendations most students voted on as their top priority.

3. Absentee Voting – Task force members also recommend a number of absentee voter ballot-related solutions, all with the intention of creating more convenient avenues for both requesting and returning an AV ballot. Recommendations include creating an online AV ballot application, pre-paid postage, on-campus drop boxes, and requiring a permanent AV ballot application list.

Task force members met three times in person and several times via conference call between September and November 2019. In 2020, they will continue to work with the Secretary of State’s Office as student engagement liaisons on their respective campuses. Learn more about the task force at Michigan.gov/SOSStudentTaskForce.

Task Force on Women in Sports to be Funded Independently

Michigan Women Forward to serve as fiscal agent

LANSING — December 17, 2019 – Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson today announced that the Task Force on Women in Sports will partner with Michigan Women Forward to seek independent funding in 2020. The task force is chaired by Secretary Benson and housed within the Department of State. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer created the panel by executive order in June.

womeninsports“Our first-of-its-kind task force, focused on the expanding opportunities for women in all aspects of sports, has enormous potential to move the needle in Michigan and nationally,” Benson said. “And this is everybody’s fight. Partnering with Michigan Women Forward will enable us to build public private partnerships, expand our reach, and engage the philanthropic community in supporting our work.”

The task force – the first of its kind at a state government level – brings together local and national leaders to develop strategies that support and promote opportunities in Michigan for girls and women in sports. Through the partnership with Michigan Women Forward, the 501c3 organization will serve as fiscal agent and receive and administer all funds donated to the task force.

“I am thrilled that Michigan Women Forward can continue to support the important work of this task force,” said Carolyn Cassin, president and CEO of Michigan Women Forward and a member of the task force. “I applaud Secretary Benson’s leadership in helping level the playing field for Michigan women and girls.”

The new partnership with Michigan Women Forward is in addition to an ongoing collaboration between the task force and the Women’s Sports Foundation. In addition to Secretary Benson, the task force is comprised of 14 members and 16 advisory members. More information, including a list of all members, is available in the About section of the Michigan.gov/SOS website.

Voters Use New Rights to Make Voices Heard

More than 1,000 registered on Election Day for Nov. 5 election

LANSING – Preliminary data from the Nov. 5 election shows Michiganders taking advantage of their new voting rights to make their voices heard in local elections.

Under the “Promote the Vote” constitutional amendment, voters can now register within 14 days of an election (up to and including Election Day) by going to their city or township clerk’s office with residency verification.

Within 14 days of the Nov. 5 election, more than 2,000 Michiganders registered to vote and were eligible to participate. More than 1,000 of these registrations took place on Election Day itself.

“I am excited to see such great new participation in our democracy,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “My office will continue to work with our Bureau of Elections and clerks across the state to ensure voters are educated on and able to take advantage of their new rights.”

Young voters took particular advantage of the new registration opportunities: About one-third of those registering on Election Day were 18-21 years old, and more than half were 30 years old or younger. This was true both of voters registering on Election Day and within the 14-day period. Voters of all ages took advantage of the new opportunities to vote, however, as more than 300 voters aged 60 or older registered to vote.

The registration numbers are a significant increase from May, when about 600 voters registered in the 14-day period, and August, when about 700 voters registered.

Secretary Benson, Transportation Security Officials Urge Residents to be Ready for REAL ID Deadline

Compliant document needed to fly in U.S. as of Oct. 1, 2020

ROMULUS – Michigan residents should pay attention to the REAL ID deadline, so they won’t be prevented from flying within the United States or entering some federal facilities, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and transportation security officials said today.

Benson held a news conference at Detroit Metropolitan Airport with Steve Lorincz, federal security director for the Transportation Security Administration, and Darryl Brown, vice president of public safety for the Wayne County Airport Authority, to ensure residents have the facts about REAL ID.

The federal REAL ID Act of 2005 was passed in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and requires higher standards for identification. When the law goes into full effect Oct. 1, 2020, a standard Michigan driver’s license or state ID card no longer will be adequate to board an aircraft for a domestic flight or to enter military bases, nuclear power plants or certain other federal facilities. More information is available at Michigan.gov/REALID.

“If you travel by air, this message is particularly important for you,” Benson said. “With the clock ticking until REAL ID goes into effect, we’re advising all Michigan residents to be prepared.”

Many people currently have an ID that meets federal REAL ID standards, Benson said, such as a valid U.S. passport, a Trusted Traveler card or an enhanced driver’s license. Michigan residents can turn their standard license or state ID card into a REAL ID by visiting any Secretary of State office with the required identity documents. Participation in the program is voluntary and anyone who doesn’t want a REAL ID will be issued a standard license or ID that can’t be used for federal identification purposes.

“REAL ID is a coordinated effort by the federal government to greatly improve aviation security,” Lorincz said. “We highly recommend that Michigan residents who plan to travel by air upgrade their standard driver’s license to a REAL ID before the deadline.”

Upgrading a standard license or state ID to a REAL ID is free if done during the normal renewal period. Otherwise, a card correction fee of $9 for a driver’s license or $10 for a state ID is charged. Currently, 41 percent of Michigan driver’s licenses and state ID cards are REAL ID-compliant. That number includes enhanced driver’s licenses, which are REAL ID-compliant and can be used to cross the border into the United States from Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean by land or sea.

When applying for a REAL ID, you will need to bring:
• Your driver’s license or state ID card.
• Your certified birth certificate, with a raised seal or stamp issued by a governmental agency; your valid, unexpired U.S. passport; or an approved citizenship or legal presence document. (Faxes and photocopies won’t be accepted.)
• If your name differs from what is on your birth certificate, bring certified documents, such as marriage licenses or court orders, for every time your name has changed.

Residents can schedule an appointment to get a REAL ID at any Secretary of State office by visiting Michigan.gov/SOSAppointments.

Benson Announces Beginning of Online Voter Registration and Availability of eNotary Services in Michigan

LANSING – Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced on Cyber Monday that Michiganders can now register to vote or update their voter registration online at Michigan.gov/VoterRegistration.

In another major announcement, Benson said that offering electronic (eNotary) and remote notarization services is now an option for the state’s more than 113,000 notaries public. Both programs represent steps forward for Michigan in using technology to provide modern and convenient services to residents.

Secretary Benson Continues Post-election Audit Pilot Program

December audits will verify Nov. 5 election results for Rochester Hills, Kalamazoo, Lansing, St. Joseph County

The Department of State’s Bureau of Elections is once again partnering with local election officials and national experts on risk-limiting audits to verify the results of the Nov. 5 local elections.

“With the expansion of our RLA pilot program, Michiganders can have more confidence than ever before that their votes are securely counted,” Benson said. “I am proud to work with so many of our local clerks to ensure this important protection for our voters.”

Department of State to Mail 250,000 Applications to Serve on Redistricting Commission

LANSING – November 19, 2019 – 250,000 Michigan voters will receive applications to serve on the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission after a random name draw held today in Lansing.

Representatives from third-party independent governmental accounting firm Rehmann LLC randomly selected names of residents to whom an ICRC application packet will be mailed prior to Jan. 1, 2020. This occurred while members of the public and the media observed.

“The random public selection made today is an important step in the constitutionally mandated process to put citizens in charge of redrawing the state’s legislative districts,” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said. “As the administrator of the application and selection process, I am committed to implementing the will of the voters with transparency and independence at each step, and by inviting the widespread participation of our citizens throughout the process. The random selection today is reflective of this approach and obligation to make the mandate from voters a reality.”

All Michiganders are encouraged to apply for the commission, whether or not they receive a randomly selected mailing. Last month, Secretary Benson announced that applications to serve are now available online at RedistrictingMichigan.org and began hosting application workshops across the state. Applications must be signed in the presence of a notary and returned to the Department of State by June 1, 2020.

According to the Michigan Constitution, in June of 2020 the Secretary of State must randomly select 200 semi-finalists (60 applicants who affiliate with the Democratic Party, 60 applicants who affiliate with the Republican Party, and 80 applicants who do not affiliate with either party). Half of these semi-finalists must be recipients of the random mailing. The entire pool of 200 semi-finalists must mirror the geographic and demographic makeup of the state of Michigan. If an applicant applies today at RedistrictingMichigan.org, and they later receive the random mailing, they will still be counted as a random mailing recipient for the purposes of the June random selection.

The constitution requires that the Secretary of State mail applications to a minimum of 10,000 randomly selected Michigan voters. Because this is the first time Michigan or any other state is implementing a citizens redistricting amendment with these requirements, the Secretary of State is randomly selecting 250,000 Michigan registered voters to receive an application to ensure that the requisite number of individuals will respond to the mailing.

District lines for political offices in Michigan, as in other states, must be redrawn every 10 years following the U.S. Census. The final 13-member citizen commission, once selected, will have exclusive authority to adopt district boundaries for the Michigan Senate, Michigan House of Representatives and U.S. Congress every 10 years and will be made up of four Democrats, four Republicans and five unaffiliated voters. The deadline for the commission to adopt a redistricting plan for Michigan’s districts is Nov. 1, 2021.

Rehmann LLC, of Troy, was selected through a standard public procurement process to perform the random selection of mailing recipients. In order to ensure a fully random drawing of names, the firm used a software called CaseWare IDEA, standard off-the-shelf software used by certified public accountants nationwide.

Under the new constitutional provision, voters assigned the Secretary of State the responsibility of administering the application and selection process of commissioners, as well as providing administrative support to the commission once formed.

Secretary Benson Names Jonathan Brater Director of Elections

directorbraterLANSING – Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has named Jonathan Brater as the incoming Director of the Michigan Bureau of Elections.

Brater will begin Jan. 2, following the retirement of current director Sally Williams. Brater has worked alongside Williams for the past 11 months as he focused on elections while serving as the Department of State’s Legal Policy Director. He previously served as counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, a non-partisan nonprofit, where his work focused on modernizing elections in partnership with secretaries of state around the country. A nationally recognized expert on voter registration law and policy, he graduated cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School, where he served as executive editor of the Michigan Law Review.

“Throughout his career Jonathan has demonstrated his commitment to secure, non-partisan election administration,” said Benson. “His deep expertise of elections practice nationally and in Michigan will be of tremendous benefit to the state.”

Williams also praised Brater: “Jonathan has worked with us tirelessly to ensure Michigan’s elections are executed effectively and without bias. He will have a great team of similarly dedicated employees, and I know he will be an excellent elections director.”

Brater, an Ann Arbor native, was selected after an open application process that began shortly after Williams announced her retirement last month. She will stay on through the end of the year to ensure a smooth transition. Williams served as Director of Elections for two years, succeeding Chris Thomas, who held the position for 36 years, and currently chairs the Department of State’s Election Modernization Advisory Committee.

“I feel fortunate for the opportunity to have worked with both Sally and Chris, and humbled by the opportunity to continue their legacy,” said Brater. “I have spent my career seeking to strengthen democracy for all people, and I will continue that work for the people of Michigan.”

Snowbirds Reminded to Renew Early

Renewal options are varied and convenient

LANSING – Residents heading south for the winter are reminded to renew their driver’s licenses and license plates before leaving Michigan.

People can renew plates for individually owned or leased cars, pickup trucks, vans and motorcycles up to six months before they expire. They can renew early online at ExpressSOS.com or at a Secretary of State office – even if they have not received their renewal information in the mail. License plate tabs will arrive by mail within two weeks. Company-owned passenger plates cannot be renewed early.

Driver’s licenses (for drivers ages 21 and older) and state ID cards may be renewed up to a year early. Motorists also have the option of obtaining a REAL ID-compliant license or state ID card at no extra cost when renewing. Certain paperwork and a visit to a branch is required, so drivers are encouraged to check Michigan.gov/REALID or call the Department of State Information Center at 888-SOS-MICH (767-6424) for more details.

Customers visiting a branch office should consider scheduling an appointment. Appointments are reserved online at Michigan.gov/SOSAppointments and help ensure that visits are 30 minutes or less. Customers select the day, time and branch office location that best fits their schedule. They should plan on arriving 10 minutes early the day of their appointment and will be called to the counter by a service representative when their time has arrived.

Secretary Benson Names Advisory Members for Task Force on Women in Sports

Leading experts to advise on task force’s work, recommendations

LANSING – In October, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced the advisory members for the Michigan Task Force on Women in Sports. These 16 national leaders will advise the Task Force on its ongoing work and inform its final recommendations to the Governor.

taskforcelogoGovernor Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order creating the task force in June, 47 years after the passage of Title IX. The executive order named Benson as chair of the task force. With the addition of the advisory members, the task force brings together local and national leaders to develop strategies to support and promote opportunities in Michigan for girls and women in sports.

“I am grateful that many of our country’s leaders in advancing women in sports will lend their expertise and experience to inform our work, placing Michigan in the forefront nationally for ensuring a level playing field for all,” Benson said.

Secretary Benson and Nonpartisan Statewide Alliance in Grand Rapids Announce Online Application Process for New Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission

13-member panel will draw fair and impartial electoral maps for Legislature, Congress

GRAND RAPIDS – Leaders of a nonpartisan statewide alliance joined with Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson today in Grand Rapids to announce that people can now apply online to serve on the new Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, beginning Michigan’s effort as one of the first states in the nation to initiate a citizen-led redistricting process.

“Last fall, millions of Michiganders voted to give citizens the power to draw our legislative districts, and now it is time to apply to be one of those citizens,” Benson said during a news conference at Grand Rapids Community College. “This is a first-of-its-kind opportunity for Michigan voters to draw fair and impartial electoral maps for our state. I hope every Michigander considers applying to participate.”

Last November, Michigan voters decisively supported the “Voters Not Politicians” constitutional amendment that makes a commission of 13 randomly selected citizens – not elected politicians, consultants or lobbyists –responsible for drawing district lines for the Michigan Senate, Michigan House of Representatives and U.S. Congress. All eligible Michigan voters are encouraged to apply to serve on the commission, which does not require any special skills or expertise. The application, available at RedistrictingMichigan.org, takes about 15 minutes to complete. Commissioners will be compensated about $40,000 for their service.

“As a longtime advocate for independent citizen redistricting, I am committed to ensuring this process is implemented with transparency so voters can have faith that the entire process is truly independent and citizen-led,” Benson said.

Among the state and local leaders who said their organizations will help inform and promote wide public participation in the commission from communities across Michigan were Sean Huizing, a Grand Rapids Community College student volunteer and civic engagement liaison on Michigan’s new Collegiate Student Advisory Task Force; Joel Pagel, vice president for external affairs for the Grand Valley State University Student Senate; Martha Gonzalez-Cortes, vice president of community investment for the Kalamazoo Community Foundation; Anthony J. Minghine, deputy executive director and COO of the Michigan Municipal League; Josh Westgate, board of directors for the Michigan Townships Association; and Jamie Lyons-Eddy, director of campaigns and programs for Voters Not Politicians.

In addition to offering the online application at RedistrictingMichigan.org, the state will hold application workshops, coordinate a statewide grassroots education push to promote awareness of the application, and mail tens of thousands of applications to randomly selected Michigan registered voters by Jan. 1, 2020, inviting them to apply to serve on the commission. The randomly selected 13-member redistricting commission will consist of four members who affiliate with the Republican Party, four members who affiliate with the Democratic Party and five members who are not affiliated with either major party.

The workshops, which will provide citizens with step-by-step instructions to fill out the applications and an opportunity to have them notarized, are tentatively scheduled for the following dates and locations:

·        Dec. 3 in Traverse City
·        Dec. 6 in Marquette

The state constitution requires each completed application to be signed in the presence of a notary. Starting Dec. 1, all Michigan Secretary of State offices will offer free notary services for the purposes of this application. In addition, city, county and township clerk offices throughout the state have offered to provide notary services for free for the redistricting commission application, or will provide applicants with information on where and how to get their application notarized free of charge. A list of Michigan notaries providing the notary service for free on this application can be found at Michigan.gov/FreeNotary.

“As one of the students selected to serve on the Secretary of State Collegiate Student Advisory Task Force, I believe it is important that young people learn about the new Michigan redistricting process and consider applying to serve,” Huizing said. “Our generation is the future of Michigan’s democracy, so I hope fellow students will consider applying to the Commission.”

GRCC’s Huizing is one of 33 Michigan students representing institution of higher education on the Collegiate Student Advisory Task Force. The members represent 31 communities across Michigan and 23 community colleges, colleges and universities statewide. Their recommendations to increase engagement among young people in Michigan will be submitted to Benson in late November. In 2020, the students also will work with the Secretary of State’s Office as civic engagement liaisons to their respective campuses.

“It is imperative that student leaders on all of Michigan’s campuses make their classmates aware that every applicant who is eligible and submits a complete, notarized application will have a chance of being randomly selected to serve on the Redistricting Commission and help determine the future of Michigan’s democracy,” GVSU’s Pagel said.

Every 10 years following the U.S. Census, district lines for political offices must be redrawn in states across the country to accurately reflect their population. Under Michigan’s new constitutional provision, voters charged the Secretary of State with administering the application and selection process of commissioners, as well as providing administrative support as the “Secretary without a vote” of the commission once it is formed.

The randomly selected commission of citizens will each earn approximately $40,000 as compensation for their service. Commission members also will have the authority to choose whether to reimburse their travel and other related expenses as part of their duties.

The commission will convene in the fall of 2020 and will be required to enact district maps no later than Nov. 1, 2021. They will set meeting dates and other commitments within those parameters upon convening.

Work hours and schedule will vary depending on the week and be determined by the commissioners. Some weeks, the time commitment may be limited to a few hours, while others may be much more intensive. The work will vary throughout the year to include public meetings, at least 15 constitutionally required public hearings, and other discussions the commission finds necessary to fulfill its service to the state.

Any registered and eligible voter in the state may apply to serve on the commission. However, the constitutional amendment outlines certain groups of people who are not eligible to serve on the commission, including partisan political officials, candidates, registered lobbyist agents, and their employees or close relatives. Lying on the application is a criminal offense, punishable under penalty of perjury.

Applicants do not need to have any prior knowledge or experience in drawing legislative districts. Commissioners will be able to hire experts and consultants to assist with their work. Once the commission is selected, there will be a training and education session to prepare commissioners for their work. The random selection process will use accepted statistical weighting methods to ensure that the semi-finalist candidate pool mirrors the geographic and demographic makeup of the state.

To ensure transparency, the Michigan Department of State has engaged the Rehmann Group, a third-party, independent accounting firm, to administer the actual random selection using statewide data from the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau.

The initial months of the commissioners’ work will involve collaborating with each other to establish a committee structure and procedures, hiring staff and outside experts, and developing a plan for citizen engagement. The work will later involve efforts to gather the input and advice of other citizens as maps are being drawn and considered. Similarly, it will involve reviewing map submissions from the public and taking them into account. Ultimately, a majority of commissioners – including at least two who affiliate with the Democratic Party, two who affiliate with the Republican Party, and two who do not affiliate with either party – will need to vote for the final districts for state House, state Senate and U.S. congressional districts in Michigan.

Important dates:

Jan. 1, 2020 – Applications to serve on the commission will be mailed to at least 10,000 Michigan registered voters at random.

June 1, 2020 – Deadline for accepting applications.

July 1, 2020 – Deadline for Department of State to post 200 randomly selected semi-finalists online and to provide the list to legislative leadership for one month of review.

Aug. 1, 2020 – Deadline for legislative leaders (Speaker of the House, House Minority Leader, Senate Majority Leader and Senate Minority Leader) to exercise up to 5 strikes each and return the list of finalists to the Department of State.

Sept. 1, 2020 – Deadline for randomly selecting the 13 commissioners.

Oct. 15, 2020 – Commissioners must hold first meeting by this date.

Nov. 1, 2021 – Deadline for the commission to adopt a redistricting plan for Michigan State House, Michigan State Senate and U.S. Congressional Districts.

Dec. 31, 2021 – Maps become law and take effect for the 2022 election cycle.

For more information about the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, please visit: RedistrictingMichigan.org.

Secretary Benson Announces Steps to Promote College-age Voter Participation, Initiatives to Resolve Lawsuit

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, in June, announced steps to promote participation among college-age voters. The steps are part of a broader voter engagement initiative and will help bring a mutually agreeable resolution to a lawsuit brought on behalf of student voting groups last year.

“Going away to school shouldn’t complicate a student’s ability to vote,” Benson said. “Michigan has made great strides recently in improving access for all voters, and this is just the beginning of our work to ensure college-age voters have the information and opportunities they need to vote as engaged citizens.”

“Young voters are the future of our state and our democracy, and we need their voices at the table,” Benson said. “I’m committed to removing barriers and also encouraging college-age voter participation with several additional initiatives that we will be announcing in the months and years ahead.”

The Department of State and Bureau of Elections will be rolling out a broad voter engagement initiative prior to the 2020 election. The initial steps announced today are focused on student and college-age voters and include:
Creating a website dedicated to providing voting information and tools for college students and first-time voters and promoting the resource on social media.
Encouraging local clerks in communities with colleges and universities to engage in student outreach through voter registration drives and other activities.
Updating department manuals and training materials to reflect a new emphasis on college student voters.
Sending letters each September to the Michigan Association of State Universities and non-member colleges and universities with helpful information for students.
Deploying the Secretary of State’s Mobile Office, as in past years but with greater frequency, to provide opportunities for voter registration on college and university campuses and encouraging friendly competition among institutions related to voter registration efforts.

These steps help resolve a lawsuit filed by College Democrats at the University of Michigan and other student organizations. The groups filed a lawsuit against the previous secretary of state in August 2018, challenging the requirement that a Michigan voter with a Michigan driver’s license have the same address for both registration and licensing, and another requirement that first-time voters must vote in person if they registered through the mail or a third party registration drive.

After the lawsuit was filed, Michigan voters adopted Proposal 3 in 2018. Among other changes, the proposal guaranteed all registered Michigan voters the right to vote absentee without giving a reason. Earlier this year, the secretary of state determined that the “must vote in person” requirement is no longer enforceable under the constitutional amendment. This change, in addition to other new voting options such as same-day registration, lessen the burden on student voters. The secretary of state will be emphasizing these new options as part of her efforts to promote student voting engagement.

Secretary Benson Announces Modernized Voter Registration on National Voter Registration Day

Automatic, online processes to increase access to democracy

LANSING – On September 24, 2019, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced that automatic voter registration officially has launched in Michigan and online voter registration will be available following the November 2019 election.

Automatic voter registration requires Secretary of State branch office staff to ensure that when Michigan citizens apply for or update their driver’s license or personal ID cards, they automatically are registered to vote unless they are ineligible or don’t want to be registered.

“Making voter registration automatic for eligible citizens means more Michigan residents will have access to participating in our democracy,” Benson said. “I look forward to this both strengthening our democracy and ultimately helping transactions move more quickly in branch offices by eliminating extra paperwork.”

Michigan began implementing automatic voter registration for driver’s license and personal ID transactions in person and online Sept. 9. The Department of State will be adding automatic voter registration for mail-based transactions in the coming months. Following the November 2019 election, the department also will launch an online portal for eligible citizens to register to vote at any time.

Preliminary data suggests automatic voter registration already is increasing voter registration in Michigan. Through the first two weeks of implementation, Michigan processed 46,527 registration transactions, an average of 4,653 per business day. By comparison, in the first two full weeks of September 2017, Michigan processed 40,022 transactions, or about 4,002 per business day.

The data is preliminary and includes only weekday transactions completed at branch offices and online; the Department of State will be releasing additional data reports after fuller data analysis can be conducted.

In the November 2018 election, Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved the Promote the Vote constitutional amendment, which contained measures to make voting more accessible and secure, including a provision that requires the automatic registration of citizens to vote at branch offices unless the citizen declines.

Driver’s license and personal ID card applications now have an “opt-out” box, which an eligible applicant must check if he or she doesn’t want to be registered to vote. As with the prior voter registration system at Secretary of State offices, only U.S. citizens are permitted to register.

Michigan joins 17 other states and the District of Columbia in enacting automatic voter registration to modernize their elections systems.

Secretary of State Offices Collecting Food Donations at Branch Offices as Part of Harvest Gathering Campaign

Financial donations accepted at FeedMichigan.org

LANSING –  On October 2, 2019, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced that all Secretary of State branch offices will be collecting nonperishable food items as part of the annual Harvest Gathering campaign.

The campaign began on Wednesday, Oct. 2, and runs through Friday, Nov. 15.

“Secretary of State offices have been participating in the Harvest Gathering for 20 years, and in that time, our generous customers and staff have donated more than 155 tons of food and $42,000,” Benson said. “Because donations stay in the area in which they are collected, every food or personal care item you drop off at a Secretary of State branch office will assist someone in need within your community – a family, a veteran, a senior citizen, a homeless neighbor.”

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson Settles ‘Ballot Selfie’ Case

Agreement allows voters to photograph own ballot; other restrictions remain in place

May 8, 2019 – Subject to court approval, the secretary of state today settled a federal lawsuit challenging Michigan’s restrictions on ballot photography, sometimes known as “ballot selfies.”

Under the settlement, in which both parties to the suit agreed to dismiss the case, voters will be allowed to take a photograph of their own ballot but only while in the voting booth. The agreement doesn’t affect other prohibitions on photography in the area where voting is occurring or sharing ballot images within 100 feet from the polling place (the buffer zone where electioneering is prohibited).

Secretary Benson to Expand Appointment Option to Every Secretary of State Branch Office

Move is a significant step toward achieving 30-minute guarantee for all Michigan residents

MACKINAC ISLAND – May 30, 2019 — Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson today announced that the Michigan Department of State is expanding the option for Michigan residents to schedule appointments to every branch office across the state.

“No one in Michigan should wait more than 30 minutes to renew their license, register their vehicle or register to vote,” Benson said. “With our statewide expansion of appointments, every Michigan resident will have the option to make an appointment at their local branch office and get in and out of a branch office in less than 30 minutes.”

The Department of State currently offers appointments in 43 branches. The appointment option will be expanded to the remaining 88 branches in phases beginning in mid-June. Customers also will be able to make appointments to complete interstate commercial truck registrations at the International Registration Plan office in Dimondale.

“As I visited our 131 branch offices during my first 100 days in office, every resident I met who had the option to make an appointment ahead of time was able to get in and out of the branch office in less than 30 minutes. But our limited appointment options weren’t available to all residents,” Benson said. “This important change will ensure we are able to serve more residents effectively and efficiently throughout our state. It’s the first of several steps we intend to take in the months and years ahead as we modernize how the Department of State provides services for Michigan’s residents.”

As the expansion is phased in, Michigan residents can schedule appointments at their convenience by selecting the day, time and location they would like to visit at Michigan.gov/SOSAppointments.

Secretary Benson Launches RedistrictingMichigan.org Web Portal for Citizens Redistricting Commission

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has launched RedistrictingMichigan.org, a new web portal to provide citizens with information and resources on the voter-approved ballot initiative that changes how Michigan’s legislative and congressional districts are drawn.

Last November, Michigan voters approved changes to the state’s constitution to establish a 13-member commission of citizens who will have exclusive authority to adopt district boundaries for the Michigan Senate, Michigan House of Representatives and U.S. Congress every 10 years.

“In establishing an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, the people of Michigan sent a clear message: They want citizens in charge of drawing our state’s legislative districts,” Benson said. “For the commission to succeed, continued citizen involvement, engagement and education is critical. This web page will provide one reliable source of information for citizens and, later this year, will provide a portal for citizens to apply to serve on the commission.”

The web page provides resources, including answers to frequently asked questions, a guide for citizens and a timeline for implementation. Registered voters interested in serving on the commission will be able to apply through the web page later this year. That application will be available in multiple formats and will be developed through an open and transparent process to be launched later this year.

Under the new constitutional provision, voters assigned the secretary of state the responsibility of administering the application and selection process of commissioners, as well as providing administrative support to the commission once formed.

District lines for political offices in Michigan, as in other states, must be redrawn every 10 years following the U.S. Census. The deadline for the commission to adopt a redistricting plan for Michigan’s districts is Nov. 1, 2021.

Secretary Benson Releases Report on Observations, Recommendations from Tour of 131 Branch Offices

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson today released a report on her observations and recommendations upon completing a tour of all 131 secretary of state branch offices in Michigan.

At a news conference at Cadillac Place in Detroit, Benson spoke about visiting all branch offices in Michigan’s 83 counties and talking with customers and employees about how to improve service and shorten wait times for Michigan residents.

“Every Michigan resident deserves efficient access to state services,” Benson said. “We are ready and determined to rebuild a system of delivering services that is modern and effective. Michigan’s hard-working residents and our employees deserve no less.”

Benson’s recommendations fall under these headings:
• Upgrade online services and communications.
• Provide targeted support to the highest volume customers.
• Revamp self-service kiosks to ensure reliable service.
• Review internal policies and pursue legislative reforms.
• Create a culture of support for staff.
• Improve the physical environment of offices.
• Expand features that work and restructure those that don’t.
• Look for opportunities to continuously streamline operations.
• Encourage customer and employee feedback.

Renew Your Watercraft Registration

Don’t forget to renew your watercraft registration with Michigan Secretary of State
New online renewal system offers convenience, choice

Michigan watercraft owners choosing to renew their registration online are using a new system that offers enhancements and options designed to make renewing as seamless as possible, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said.

“Fast, dependable service is our pledge to Michiganders,” Benson said. “We know you’d rather spend your time on the water, so we’re exploring ways to improve the renewal process.”

CARS e-Services, at ExpressSOS.com, was unveiled in February and replaces the Department of State’s 1960s mainframe computer system. The new system provides a customer-focused model that aligns to how people expect to interact with the Secretary of State’s Office. For example, each customer’s information is kept in a central record, unlike the old mainframe, which stored data across multiple servers.

CARS e-Services provides three options for renewing watercraft:
• An online express option for quick renewals.
• An online authenticated renewal process, which allows customers to access their customer record and conduct other transactions along with their watercraft renewal. They also may print a copy of their renewed registration.
• A new option to renew at a Secretary of State self-service kiosk. Self-service kiosks are found at the busier Secretary of State offices and at select retail and city buildings. Check the Branch Office Locator at Michigan.gov/SOS for kiosk locations.

The use of online renewal is gaining in popularity. In fiscal year 2018, which ran from Oct. 1, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018, about 57,000 watercraft registrations were renewed online, compared to about 53,000 from the previous year. As customers become more comfortable with the benefits of online renewal, the number of transactions is expected to continue to rise.

There are about 797,000 current watercraft registrations on file with the Secretary of State’s Office. More than 252,000 watercraft renewal notices were mailed this month. Watercraft registrations are renewed every three years and expire on March 31 of the third year.

All watercraft, including those on privately owned lakes and waterways, must be registered, except for the following:
• Watercraft 16 feet or less, propelled by oars or paddles that aren’t used for rental or commercial purposes.
• Nonmotorized canoes and kayaks not used for rental or commercial purposes.
• Rafts, surfboards, sailboards and swim floats, regardless of length.
• Watercraft registered in another state and used only temporarily in Michigan.

Secretary Benson Welcomes Era of No-reason Mail-in Voting in Michigan

Convenient option available to every registered voter

No-reason mail-in voting has launched in Michigan, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced today, explaining it will make voting easier for people across the state.

“If you want to fill out your ballot at home, you should be able to do so. And if you want to avoid the stress of finding time to get to the polls on Election Day, you should be able to do that, too,” Benson said. “The era of no-reason mail-in voting has begun in Michigan, and I’m excited about the potential it has to engage more of our fellow citizens in our democracy.”

She called no-reason mail-in voting a common-sense reform that can save administrative costs and headaches, increase turnout and reduce lines during elections. The reform also removes Michigan from the ranks of the relatively few states that haven’t offered voters the ability to mail-in their vote for no reason.

Benson held a news conference with Flint Township Clerk Kathy Funk at township offices on the first day registered voters can request a mail-in ballot for the May 7 election. They were joined by other local officials and two area residents – a small business owner and an employee of a business with nontraditional hours – who couldn’t previously use a mail-in ballot but now will have that convenient option in their busy lives.

On Nov. 6, Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved Proposal 3, which contained many measures to make voting more accessible and secure, including a provision that allows voters to obtain a mail-in ballot without providing a reason. Before that, voters in Michigan could only request a mail-in ballot if they could meet one of six criteria as an “absent voter,” such as being 60 years or older or expecting to be out of town on Election Day.

“No-reason mail-in voting is a convenience that will help many people at election time,” Benson said. “Last November, the people of this state decided to make voting easier, and their change for the better begins today.”

Benson encouraged residents to visit Michigan.gov/Vote, where they can download a mail-in ballot application and find a wealth of election-related information.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson Takes Steps to Strengthen Voter File Accuracy

Chief election officer requests membership in ERIC

As chief election officer, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson today announced she has taken steps to ensure the accuracy of Michigan’s voter file by formally requesting membership in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC).

“In November, Michigan voters made it clear: Like me, they believe it should be easier to vote and harder to cheat,” Benson said today. “We’re taking the first step toward achieving that goal by ensuring the accuracy of our voter registration file.”

Benson said once Michigan is a member of ERIC – a self-governing, multistate partnership dedicated to the accuracy of the nation’s voter files – the state will have unprecedented insight into the integrity of its voter rolls thanks to the collaboration of participating states, key federal databases and the use of sophisticated and secure data-matching technology.

“In terms of election security, this is an important first step,” she said.

Established in 2012, ERIC uses encrypted voter information from partnering states along with death records from the Social Security Administration to red flag deceased voters, duplicate voter registrations, voters who move and eligible voters not yet registered so states can reach out to them. ERIC also provides resources previously unavailable to the state of Michigan for maintaining the accuracy of its voter list, including the availability of encrypted driver information from other states and data from the National Change of Address database maintained by the U.S. Postal Service.

States already participating in ERIC are Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Also participating is the District of Columbia.

Benson, who has a long track record of supporting Michigan’s membership in ERIC, reiterated her support in June. The partnership’s effectiveness is well documented. Between 2013 and 2017, ERIC identified nearly 10 million out-of-date voter records for its members. Currently, Michigan has no system in place to verify the accuracy of its voter file against those of other states.

Secretary Benson Convenes Election Modernization Advisory Committee to Advance Election Reforms

Consortium of local election officials, voting rights advocates, experts to provide counsel on Proposal 3 voter reforms

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced today an Election Modernization Advisory Committee to advise her administration and the Department of State’s Bureau of Elections on the implementation of Proposal 3 and further election reforms.

Members of the committee include county, city and township clerks from across the state, Michigan-based voting rights advocates, and local and national election experts.

“The results of last November’s election are clear: Michigan voters want to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” Benson said. “I am grateful to the local and national experts who have agreed to come together to ensure we do just that, modernizing our elections, applying best practices and making Michigan a national model for clean, efficient and secure elections.”

Passed overwhelmingly by voters in November, Proposal 3 involves significant changes to Michigan’s election laws, including the institution of absentee voting for any reason, automatic voter registration and the ability to register up to and on Election Day.

The advisory committee will provide input, suggestions and feedback on the execution of these reforms. Other topics slated for consultation by the committee include the launch of online voter registration passed by the Legislature last year along with poll worker recruitment training, as well as solutions to current challenges involving elections.

Benson has named former Michigan Director of Elections Christopher Thomas to lead the newly formed advisory committee. The committee will be staffed and facilitated by the Michigan Bureau of Elections and other staff from the Secretary of State’s office.