MI Secretary of State

Voters Should Be Registered In Just 1 State – Deceased Quickly Removed

Secretary Johnson: Voters Should Be Registered In Just 1 State;
Deceased Quickly Removed

Johnson endorses common-sense reforms in response to presidential election commission

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson today presented several common-sense election reforms to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, including the need to have the federal government and states work together to clean up voter rolls by removing deceased voters and voters registered in multiple states.

In response to a recent request from the commission to state election administrators about how the federal government can help improve election administration, Johnson proposed that state motor vehicle agencies be required to notify a voter’s prior state of residence when an individual moves to a new state and registers to vote there. Once the election administrator in the voter’s former state of residence receives confirmation that a voter has moved and registered to vote in another state, the voter registration in the previous state could be cancelled. Federal law already requires motor-vehicle agencies to ask driver’s license applicants if they want to register to vote.

“This common-sense reform would provide for the efficient removal of nonresidents from state voter rolls, while minimizing the opportunity for individuals to vote in multiple states at the same election,” Johnson wrote in her letter to the commission. “Once fully implemented, the legislation will enhance state efforts to ensure that votes are cast only by eligible voters and will result in cost savings for state and local election administrators.”

Improved voter information sharing among the states was strongly endorsed by President Obama’s bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration as a way to better maintain voter records nationally.

Johnson also recommended that the federal government provide the Social Security Administration’s list of deceased Social Security card holders to states at a much lower cost than states are now charged so the deceased can be quickly removed to eliminate a vulnerability to voter fraud. Additionally, she said the federal government should do more to assist states in identifying noncitizen registered voters so those records can be removed from the voter file. She encouraged the federal government to provide noncitizen information to state election officials to ensure voter rolls do not include ineligible individuals. This data sharing also would help protect noncitizens who inadvertently become registered to vote and seriously jeopardize their legal path to U.S. citizenship.

In response to a question about finding ways to prevent voter intimidation or disenfranchisement, Johnson noted that having clean, accurate voter rolls will protect all voters by reducing the possibility that a voter visits the wrong polling location, and then is challenged or given a provisional ballot that may not be counted. Additionally, Johnson shared her opposition to allowing cameras and video recorders in polling places, as an ongoing lawsuit that her office is vigorously defending against seeks.

“I am particularly concerned that allowing photography in the polling place would be viewed by some voters as intimidating or coercive, as it compromises ballot secrecy,” she wrote. “A voter or an image of his or her ballot may be surreptitiously recorded and posted on social media without the voter’s knowledge or consent.”

President Trump created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity this year to review voter registration and voting processes nationwide. Vice President Pence chairs the commission, which has solicited ideas for improvements from each state’s chief election officer.

As part of its request for information, the commission also sought voter registration data from all 50 states. Consistent with the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), any individual or group may request and obtain publicly available voter registration data. Basic voter information such as name, year of birth and dates of elections in which a person has voted, but not how a person voted, will be released to the commission if it submits the required FOIA request form and pays the standard fee for the voter records. The state’s voter file is routinely released to candidates, political parties, news outlets and academic researchers, among others, as required by state law.

The copy of the letter to the commission is available online.

Secretary Johnson Names New Elections Director

New Director Sally Williams oversaw statewide purchases of election equipment

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson today announced Sally Williams, a long-time Department of State staff person, as the next director of the Michigan Bureau of Elections.

Williams now serves as the bureau’s Election Liaison Division director, which assists county and local clerks in their election administration duties, and oversees training of local election officials. Before that, she served in the executive offices of Secretaries Candice Miller and Terri Lynn Land as the assistant to the chief of staff and as a project manager for major departmental initiatives.

“Sally’s breadth of experience with Michigan elections and her established relationship with local clerks make her an excellent choice to lead the Bureau of Elections,” said Johnson, the state’s chief election official. “She will ensure Michigan voters can continue to have full confidence in the accuracy and integrity of our elections process. Already in her current position, she has spearheaded improvements in a number of areas, including a focus on improving election worker training.”

A Michigan State University graduate and 30-year employee of the department, Williams led the efforts of the Bureau of Elections when the state reviewed and selected vendors to supply the new election equipment that will be in use statewide by August 2018. She also directed the bureau’s efforts to better train local election officials and their workers, and conduct post-election audits, as well as the launch of the Michigan Voter Information Center at www.Michigan.gov/vote.

“I’m honored to be Michigan’s next elections director,” said Williams, who will be the first female elections director since the position was created in the 1950s. “We have a great team in the Bureau of Elections, and Chris Thomas has prepared us well. I look forward to continuing my work with local clerks so Michigan voters have their voices heard on Election Day.”

Williams replaces Christopher M. Thomas, who retires this week after 36 years as director. The Bureau of Elections, which reports to the secretary of state, accepts and reviews candidate and ballot question petition filings; conducts statewide instructional programs for clerks and precinct workers; assists county and local election officials with their administrative duties; and oversees the operation of the Qualified Voter File. It also administers Michigan’s Campaign Finance Act, the Lobby Registration Act and the Office of the Great Seal, which commissions notaries public, among other duties.

Preserving Michigan’s Lighthouses

Secretary Johnson, MSHDA Director Poleski promote fundraising plate

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan’s lighthouse license plate has a new design and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) Executive Director Earl Poleski are promoting it as a way to help preserve the iconic structures on the state’s shorelines.

sosandpoleski“Michigan is a state of wondrous natural resources and breathtaking beauty,” Secretary Johnson said. “Scattered along the edges of its peninsulas, our Great Lakes State also has more than a hundred lighthouses that are majestic to behold and exciting to explore. We need to keep them in good condition for everyone to enjoy.”

Buying a Save Our Lights license plate helps preserve Michigan’s historic lighthouses. When a plate is purchased, $25 of the $35 additional fee and all $10 of subsequent fees go toward the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program, administered by the State Historic Preservation Office at MSHDA. Since 2000, the program has awarded more than $2 million in grants to lighthouse stewards for the rehabilitation of these historic structures.

“The Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program enables the State Historic Preservation Office to help lighthouse stewards preserve these beacons for all of us,” Poleski said. “Because of the generosity of people who pay a little extra for a Save Our Lights license plate, we are able to award grants to local communities committed to rehabilitating and protecting these beautiful structures for the long term.”

The new lighthouse license plate design was intended to be more representative of all of the state’s lighthouses. The old plate featured a specific lighthouse, the White Shoal Light. Lighthouses have been protecting ships from treacherous waters in Michigan since the establishment of the state’s first lighthouse, the Fort Gratiot Light, in 1825. More than 240 lighthouses once guarded Michigan’s shores. Today, only 124 of these iconic structures remain.

For more information about the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program and to order a Save Our Lights license plate, visit michigan.gov/saveourlights.

SOS Johnson Promotes Telephone Tip Line for Reporting Fraud

To assist Michigan consumers with reporting potential fraud, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson announced today that a telephone Tip Line is now available for use by anyone who witnesses or experiences potential fraud involving Michigan Department of State programs or documents.

The Tip Line allows callers to report suspicious or suspected fraudulent activity. Anyone with knowledge of fraud is encouraged to call 1-844-372-8356 to report suspected violations. The number is toll-free.

“Fraud is a growing threat in our state and nation that costs consumers many billions of dollars every year,” Secretary Johnson said. “If you are aware of scams or illegal activities related to Michigan vehicles, identification, documents, elections or any area this department oversees, please contact our toll-free Tip Line with as many details as you can provide. Our investigators will work with law enforcement agencies to catch lawbreakers that hurt all of us.”

Anyone can also send an email to sos-ois@michigan.gov to communicate with the Secretary of State’s Office of Investigative Services. OIS is the primary investigative authority within the Department of State and is charged with overseeing investigations involving the department’s program areas.

Johnson created OIS as part of her focus on strengthening her office’s consumer protection efforts. The office primarily investigates and inspects automotive-related businesses and consumer complaints against them.

Information about Secretary of State office hours, locations and services can be found at michigan.gov/sos.

SOS Promotes Tool for Parents During Internet Safety Month

Johnson: ProtectMiChild Registry can help keep kids safe from unsuitable online ads

LANSING, Mich. ‒ With June celebrated as National Internet Safety Month, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is reminding parents that they can help keep their kids safe by joining the ProtectMiChild Registry.

The registry is a free and secure program housed on the Secretary of State website that families and schools can use to block adult-oriented ads for products like alcohol, tobacco, pornography and online gambling from reaching their children’s email inboxes, tablets, cell phones or instant messenger IDs.

“With kids spending a great deal of time on their smartphones and other devices, parents face a tough task in keeping children safe from influences and products that are not age appropriate,” Johnson said. “The ProtectMiChild Registry provides parents with the tools they need to help control the Internet content to which their children are exposed. It’s a great resource and I encourage parents and schools to use it to protect their kids.”

Concerned parents or schools may register the electronic addresses for any devices children use at ProtectMiChild.com. The registry will block adult Internet ads for all registered contact points (such as an email address, smart phone number or instant messenger ID) for three years or until the youngest child with access to the contact point reaches the age of 18. Once the information has been entered into the registry, companies that send messages that advertise or link to prohibited products or services are required to remove the registered contact email, phone number or IM within 30 days from their mailing lists. ProtectMiChild registrations may be renewed at any time for an additional three-year period.

U.S Census figures from 2014 show that youth under the age of 18 comprise about 22 percent of the state’s population. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, teens spend an average of 2.3 hours per day engaged in electronic communication and recreation (surfing the Internet, playing video games, texting with friends, and viewing TV) and nearly twice as much time on the weekends. There are a number of Internet games, devices and services produced just for preschoolers.

Visit the registry at ProtectMiChild.com.

A video message from Secretary Johnson about the ProtectMiChild Registry is available here.

Mechanic Inspections Now Required for Rebuilt Salvage Vehicles to Ensure Safety

Work on rebuilt vehicles must be performed adequately

Under a new state law now in effect, damaged vehicles deemed salvage must be inspected by a certified mechanic before being allowed back on the road, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson announced today.

Previously, only an inspection by a trained law-enforcement officer was required to verify that the vehicle was not repaired using stolen auto parts. The new law adds a certification by a licensed mechanic to ensure the repair work was done adequately and the vehicle is safe to drive.

“Michigan car-buyers now will have peace of mind that a newly rebuilt vehicle they buy has been inspected by a certified mechanic and wasn’t repaired poorly,” Johnson said. “I thank lawmakers for approving this important consumer-protection law.”

People who have repaired a salvage vehicle must use the same salvage-vehicle inspection form, which now includes a section for a certified mechanic to fill out. The form is available online or at any Secretary of State office. Once completed, the vehicle owner must submit the form at a Secretary of State office along with the vehicle’s salvage title and a salvage certification form before receiving a rebuilt salvage title.

Salvage titles are issued to distressed vehicles that weigh 4 tons or less and were manufactured in the last six model years, or those that weigh more than 4 tons and were manufactured in the last 16 model years. A vehicle becomes distressed when one or more of its major components, such as bumpers, engine, body or frame, have been wrecked, stolen or missing so the vehicle’s estimated damage is from 75 percent to less than 91 percent of its pre-damaged value.

A seller is required to disclose if the vehicle has a salvage title. Car buyers should watch for an orange title when purchasing a car. An orange title means that the vehicle has a salvage title, and may not be worth as much as the same car with a green or “clean” Michigan title.

Michigan Elections Director to Retire in June After Decades of Service

Secretary Johnson: Voters “benefited tremendously from his leadership”

State Elections Director Christopher M. Thomas today announced he will retire in June after a career spanning five decades serving Michigan voters.

“I am incredibly grateful for Chris’ experience and expertise as state elections director,” said Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, who previously served as the Oakland County clerk. “Michigan voters and election workers have benefited tremendously from his leadership. I know of no one else here in Michigan or nationwide who has done more to support voters and improve election administration.”

Then-Secretary of State Richard Austin, a Democrat, appointed Thomas elections director in 1981. He then served under three Republican secretaries of state, most recently under Johnson. He began his career in elections administration in 1974 by working for the U.S. House of Representatives and later the Federal Election Commission.

“I take great pride in the team developed in the Bureau of Elections to carry out the secretary’s supervisory responsibilities under Michigan Election Law,” Thomas wrote in his resignation letter. “The bureau has never been better prepared or more cohesive as they are right now. I am comfortable leaving Michigan elections in these hands.”

“Enormous changes in the world of election administration have taken place over the past 40 years. The bureau has never been better prepared or more cohesive as they are right now. I am comfortable leaving Michigan elections in these hands. The secretary of state and the Bureau of Elections have been called upon by the Michigan Legislature and the Congress to take a larger role in ensuring uniform election administration, rolling out technology based services and keeping the franchise easily accessible and secure to all Michigan electors.”

Thomas has held positions in national organizations to improve election administration across the United States, including as chair of the Board of Advisers to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission from 2006 to 2008 and as a member of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration in 2013. He also was a founding member of the National Association of State Elections Directors in 1989, and served as its president in 1997 and 2013. He was awarded the association’s Distinguished Service Award in 2012. He also has been an adjunct professor since 2001 at the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, where he received a law degree, teaching election law.

Bureau of Elections staff works closely with the 1,600 clerks of the state’s counties, cities and townships to provide training and assist local election officials with their duties. The bureau is responsible for administering the state’s Qualified Voter File, and Michigan election, campaign-finance and lobbyist disclosure laws.

Among the recent examples of new communications tools, the Bureau of Elections now offers an online training website for election workers, expanded YouTube education videos and the mobile-friendly Michigan Voter Information Center at www.Michigan.gov/vote, which allows voters to find their polling place, review a sample ballot and track their absentee ballot.

Department leadership will develop a plan to fill the position in the coming months.

Secretary Johnson Recommends Feds Strengthen Elections System

5-point plan seeks to eliminate voter fraud vulnerabilities in states

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has sent a list of recommendations on strengthening the integrity of the elections system to Vice President Mike Pence and Michigan’s congressional delegation asking that the federal government provide state and local officials with the tools they need to ensure election integrity.

Pence is expected to head a special commission to investigate election issues.

“I believe the most critical parts of election administration are getting eligible citizens registered to vote and ensuring that only those individuals who are eligible to vote appear on the voter rolls,” Johnson said in her letter to Pence. “The United States as a whole must strive for the cleanest voter lists to eliminate vulnerabilities to voter fraud. To allow an ineligible person to cast a ballot is to disenfranchise an eligible citizen.”

Johnson has made election integrity and the accuracy of Michigan’s Qualified Voter File a top priority since she took office in 2011. Her department has removed 1.1 million ineligible people from the voter rolls, including 482,427 deceased voters, 104,126 who were registered in two states and 3,359 noncitizens. Her office also has performed 1,400 post-election audits and sends out a reminder to Michigan residents when they turn 18 years old and asks people who aren’t registered when they visit a Secretary of State office. Michigan has been named the top state for registering people to vote at motor-vehicle offices.

Her five recommendations:

  1. Make Social Security Administration data available – The federal government should help states remove the names of deceased voters from the voter rolls. The Social Security Administration holds this data and it should be made available at no cost to all state election officials and updated at least once per month.
  2. Remove those registered in more than one state – Congress, with the support of the administration, needs to pass a law that allows a voter to be efficiently removed at state motor vehicle offices from the voting rolls if that voter registers in their new state of residence. There is no process, system or law to prevent people from being registered in more than one state. This needs to be an automated system for all states. Former Congresswoman Candice Miller worked hard on a bill that would have accomplished this but it never passed.
  3. Share noncitizen info – The federal government should allow states to verify noncitizens are not on the voter rolls. For years, the federal government required motor-vehicle agency clerks to ask customers—without regard to their citizenship—if they would like to register to vote. As a consequence, many noncitizens registered in error. Johnson met with Homeland Security officials in 2012 and asked for assistance in removing noncitizens from the voter list but never heard back or received any information or cooperation despite numerous attempts.
  4. Create an election crime database – A comprehensive, national database or repository of election-related crimes needs to be created by the administration or Congress with the participation of all states. It would be invaluable to have a federal repository of election crimes categorized with information easily retrieved to help quantify and qualify problems. This will help identify vulnerabilities and fix them.
  5. Require a voting paper trail – Voting machines or tabulators across the U.S. should be required to have some form of a verifiable paper trail that allows officials and citizens to review the results instead of having to blindly trust electronic devices. Voting machines or tabulators that don’t provide election officials with a paper record do not instill confidence in our elections systems and lack the accountability needed. Additionally, voting machines should not be connected to the internet.

Secretary Johnson Announces Next-Generation Voting Equipment

Clerks now will choose which system works best locally

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson today announced the approval of contracts for new next-generation voting equipment that all Michigan voters will use over at least the next decade.

The State Administrative Board today approved 10-year contracts with three vendors for optical-scan voting systems that read and tabulate paper ballots marked by voters. Each of Michigan’s 83 county clerks now will consult with the city and township clerks in their county to select one of the three vendors.

“The new equipment offers voters all the speed and convenience of the latest ballot-scanning and election-night reporting technology while at the same time featuring a good, old-fashioned paper ballot that we can always go back and look at if we need to,” said Johnson, the state’s chief elections official.

The three election equipment and software vendors that had contracts approved today are Dominion Voting Systems, Election Systems and Software and Hart InterCivic, which all have systems that are being successfully used in other states.

“Michigan’s voting equipment has served us well over the past 12 years, but it is nearing the end of its expected lifespan and needs to be retired,” Johnson said. “I thank local clerks for their feedback as we discussed how to replace our aging equipment as well as the support of lawmakers and the governor.”

The new equipment, which includes ballot tabulators, accessible devices for use by voters with disabilities and election-management and reporting software, could be in use as early as the August 2017 primary local elections, depending on how quickly clerks are ready to implement them. All cities and townships across the state will have the new equipment by August 2018, which is the next scheduled statewide election.

The new systems all use digital optical scan technology, which includes notable improvements and increased ease of use for voters and election administrators. The systems allow for electronic storage of ballot images, a feature that will be useful during post-election audits. Improvements in the election management system software will save county and local clerks time and money in preparing for elections and providing election results. The options available for voters with disabilities are also greatly improved, and contractors will be required to continually assess and improve the systems, based on feedback. The contracts also cover service and maintenance.

A team of Michigan Bureau of Elections staff, local election officials and purchasing agents from the Secretary of State’s Office and the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget reviewed the proposals and equipment before recommending approval of a contract with three vendors. Elections staff sought extensive feedback about the systems from local election officials and advocates for Michigan voters with disabilities.

The new equipment will be paid for with $30 million in federal Help America Vote Act money that the Secretary of State’s Office has saved for more than a decade, and with $10 million approved by the Legislature with the support of Gov. Snyder. This funding will cover most of the up-front cost for the new systems. Cities and townships will pay for the remaining cost, which will vary, depending on which vendor is selected, and for extended service and maintenance, which will begin in the 6th year of the contract period.

The equipment voters used in 2016 was rolled out in 2004 and 2005 when Michigan began using optical-scan voting systems statewide. Michigan is one of the only states with a substantial amount of federal funds still available to assist with the purchase of the next-generation voting systems.

Secretary Johnson requesting your help

Hop online, not in line, at ExpressSOS.com

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and a rapping kangaroo are teaming up to encourage Michigan residents to hop online to do their Secretary of State business as part of a grassroots effort to spread the word.

The “Kangaruth” video is being aired statewide and a 20-second30-second and 1-1/2 minute version can be viewed at youtube.com/michsosoffice or www.Michigan.gov/kangaruth.

“I am asking you to help out and share the video and the message of hopping online at ExpressSOS.com with as many people as possible to help shorten the wait times at Secretary of State branch offices,” Johnson said. “The more people that know about using the online services the shorter the wait times are for those who must visit an office in person.”

The Secretary of State’s Office is working with 25 percent fewer employees than it had a decade ago and the offices are getting busier as the state’s economy has picked up.

Residents can renew their registration/tabs for your car, truck, motorcycle and watercraft. Most people can renew or replace a standard driver’s license or state ID. And with its Print ’N Go feature, customers can print their receipt and drive legally until they get their card or sticker in the mail. (Every eight years, customers need to visit an office to get an updated photo). Customers can get a duplicate vehicle registration or title, and change/update their address and personal information. You can even join the organ donor registry, all from the comfort of your home, library, office or on the go.

ExpressSOS.com launched in 2011 and has conducted 9.6 million online transactions, saving customers the trip and avoiding the line.

Secretary of State Employees Receive Big ‘Thank You’ for Helping to Save Lives

Gift of Life, Eversight celebrate first national DMV Appreciation Week

LANSING, Mich. – Gift of Life Michigan and Eversight Michigan – the state’s organ, tissue and eye donation programs – took the week, September 19-23, 2016, to thank Secretary of State and Motor Vehicle Departments (DMVs) across the country for their partnership and commitment to asking the donation question to their customers every day.

“Our SOS partners are the people on the front lines of service who have helped register more than 4.3 million donors in Michigan and 130 million nationwide,” said Dorrie Dils, CEO of Gift of Life Michigan. “They are critical to the process.”

Diana Kern, executive director of Eversight Michigan, agreed. “The work the SOS clerks, managers and other staff do directly contributes to life-saving, life-improving transplants. We are so grateful for their support,” Kern said.

During the inaugural National DMV Appreciation Week, Gift of Life and Eversight staff and volunteers thanked SOS clerks, shared stories of employees touched by donation or transplantation and provided materials to celebrate the SOS’s contributions to saving lives. The concept for the week was created by Donate Life America, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit alliance of national organizations and Donate Life State Teams committed to saving and healing lives through increased organ, eye and tissue donation.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson welcomed the accolades. “Our Department of State employees have embraced donation,” Johnson said. “We do so many important things, but contributing to the saving of a life or giving someone sight is one of the most fulfilling parts of the job.”

In Michigan, over 56 percent of adults are currently on the donor registry, compared to just 27 percent in 2011. “By asking customers if they would like to join the donor registry, our staff has taken the state from one of the worst registration rates in the country to one of the best, and we’re still not done,” Johnson said. Nationally, about 53 percent of adults are on the registry.

David Fleming of Donate Life America said SOS and DMV employees deserve recognition for the gains. “Even with advances in technology, the partnership remains a primary source of donor registrations,” said Fleming, Donate Life’s president and CEO. “We could not have reached this milestone of registered donors and lives saved without the partnership and support of SOS offices and DMVs.”

To register your decision to be an organ, tissue and eye donor in the Michigan Organ Donor Registry, please go to GiftOfLifeMichigan.org or Michigan.gov/SOS.

Secretary of State Seeks Vendors

Secretary of State seeks vendors that can deliver on a new computer system for driver and vehicle files
–Request for Proposal requires experience, finished project in other jurisdiction 

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is seeking a new vendor to build a computer system to replace one that’s been in place since the 1960s that serves offices around the state.

The new contract is needed after the state of Michigan sued Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPE) because it failed to deliver on a $49 million contract despite having 10 years to complete the project.

“We’re looking for a vendor to do what HP could not do:  Deliver,” Johnson explained. “Companies bidding for the contract will be required to show that they have an efficient, successful and proven system up and running for both driver and vehicle files.”

A new system will ensure accountability to taxpayers and allow Secretary of State staff to better serve customers because they’ll have easier access to both driver and vehicle records. It also will allow law enforcement to get information in real time and the department to implement legislative changes much more quickly. A new system will provide employees a better, faster and much more efficient system that is more customer-friendly.

The new contract is also expected to require an independent contractor to monitor and verify what’s produced throughout the project, and vendors won’t get paid until they deliver.

A request for proposal was issued today with proposals from interested companies expected back by Oct. 25. Details of the RFP are available at www.buy4michigan.com.

More information about the current failed contract is available herehere and here.

For more about the Secretary of State’s Office:
To find Secretary of State office locations and services, visit www.michigan.gov/sos. Sign up for the official Secretary of State Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/michsos and Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/michigansos. Online services are available at www.expresssos.com.

Customers may call the Department of State Information Center to speak to a customer-service representative at 888-SOS-MICH (767-6424).

Statewide Giving Effort at Secretary of State Offices

Secretary of State offices to host Harvest Gathering food drive collection sites

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson today encouraged residents to donate nonperishable food at Secretary of State offices statewide as part of the 26th Annual Michigan Harvest Gathering food drive.

“All it takes to help your neighbor is a can of soup or a jar of peanut butter,” Johnson said. “Just bring these items to an area Secretary of State office. With that seemingly small gesture you are helping a local family to put food on their table when they otherwise might have gone hungry.”

Johnson thanked Secretary of State staff for making the food drive so successful every year. Since 2011, Secretary of State offices have collected almost 30 tons of food donations. The Secretary of State portion of the Harvest Gathering campaign runs through Nov. 23.

“The collaboration between Secretary of State offices in Michigan and the Michigan Harvest Gathering has provided valuable outreach to local communities in all 83 counties,” said Phillip Knight, executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan. “The Michigan Harvest Gathering is successful because of partnerships dedicated to making Michigan a food secure state.”

In Michigan, 16 percent of households struggle to put food on the table and 21 percent of children don’t know where their next meal will come from, according to the Food Bank Council of Michigan. The organization coordinates the program, which supplies the state’s regional food banks through donations of food and money. The regional food banks serve food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters in every Michigan county.

In 2015, the entire Michigan Harvest Gathering campaign collected 300,000 pounds of food and more than $381,000. This year, the campaign’s goal is to collect enough food and funds for two million meals.

Nonperishable food items with a valid expiration date can be dropped off at any Secretary of State office.

Food items especially needed include canned meats, dry beans, soups, beef stew, pasta products, peanut butter and tuna. Other items include baby food or formula, diapers, soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes. The Food Bank requests donors avoid items in glass, as they often break in transit. Financial donations may be made online at www.feedmichigan.org.

For more about the Secretary of State’s Office:
To find Secretary of State office locations and services, visit www.michigan.gov/sos. Sign up for the official Secretary of State Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/michsos and Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/michigansos. Online services are available at www.expresssos.com.

Customers may call the Department of State Information Center to speak to a customer-service representative at 888-SOS-MICH (767-6424).

Do You Know What Your Children Are Doing Online?

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop ask: ‘Do you know what your children are doing online?’

sos and bishop and kids

Officials promote child protection registry to block unsuitable online ads

CLARKSTON, Mich. ‒ It’s summertime, which means more free time for kids to play with their smart phones, tablets and other electronic gadgets.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop want parents to know that there is an effective way to keep kids safe from adult-oriented online ads, even during those times when mom and dad can’t be present to supervise their child’s online activities.

It’s called the Michigan Child Protection Registry and Johnson and Bishop held a news conference today at the media center of Clarkston’s Renaissance High School to promote this valuable resource. The registry is a free and secure program housed on the Secretary of State website that families and schools can use to block adult-oriented ads for products like alcohol, tobacco, pornography and online gambling from reaching their children’s email inboxes, tablets, cell phones or instant messenger IDs.

“As much as we’d all like to, it is not possible to watch a child every minute of the day,” said Johnson, who has a teenage daughter. “It can be a struggle just to keep up with the new social media sites and online games our kids use. The ‘Protect MiChild’ website offers parents and caregivers a secure and simple way to put some controls in place regarding the Internet content their children see.”

Concerned parents or schools may register the electronic addresses for any devices children use at ProtectMiChild.com. The registry will block adult Internet ads for all registered contact points (such as an email address, smart phone number or instant messenger ID) for three years or until the youngest child with access to the contact point reaches the age of 18. Once the information has been entered into the registry, companies that send messages that advertise or link to prohibited products or services are required to remove the registered contact email, phone number or IM within 30 days from their mailing lists. Protect MiChild registrations may be renewed at any time for an additional three-year period.

Bishop originally sponsored the legislation that created the registry, introducing it when he was the Senate majority leader. He remains a strong advocate for greater Internet safety provisions for children, having introduced similar efforts in Congress.

“I’m the father of three, and like any parent, I can see the many ways children today rely on the Internet – for schoolwork, social media, mobile apps – you name it. That’s why it’s so important for all levels of leadership to ensure our kids are protected from inappropriate content when they go online,” Bishop said. “I was proud to introduce the Michigan Child Protection Registry during my time in the Michigan Senate, and I applaud Secretary of State Johnson for continuing to get the word out about this important tool. In Congress, I’ve remained focused on keeping kids safe, and I urge my colleagues in Lansing to continue and strengthen these efforts.”

June is the ideal month to promote the child protection registry because it is celebrated nationally as Internet Safety Month. Joining Johnson and Bishop at the news conference was Clarkston resident and mother Tonya Cunningham, who is the community organizer for the nonprofit Clarkston Coalition for Youth.

U.S Census figures from 2014 show that youth under the age of 18 comprise about 22 percent of the state’s population. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, teens spend an average of 2.3 hours per day engaged in electronic communication and recreation (surfing the Internet, playing video games, texting with friends, and viewing TV) and nearly twice as much time on the weekends. There are a number of Internet games, devices and services produced just for preschoolers.

“We are living in a digital age,” Johnson said. “To keep our children safe from influences and products that are not age appropriate requires action. The Protect MiChild Registry provides parents with the tools they need to help control the Internet content to which their children are exposed. It’s a great resource and I encourage parents and schools to use it to protect their kids.”

Visit the registry at ProtectMiChild.com.

A video message from Secretary Johnson about the Protect MiChild Registry is available on the Secretary of State website.

conference
www.michigan.gov/sos

Customers Should be Wary of ‘Phishy’ Phone Calls

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson cautions customers to be wary of ‘phishy’ phone calls. 
Callers claiming to be state employees asking for credit card info

LANSING, Mich. – Secretary of State Ruth Johnson urges customers to take care when giving out information over the phone to anyone they do not know personally.

The Secretary of State’s Office is aware of instances in which a person claiming to be a state employee has called asking for credit card and Social Security information. Callers may use a technique known as “caller ID spoofing” so a phone’s caller ID displays a valid number of a Secretary of State office or another state agency. Scammers pretending to be a legitimate business or government agency is often referred to as “phishing.”

Johnson emphasized that the Secretary of State’s Office does not make unsolicited calls to customers asking for personal or financial information.

“Although alarming as this activity is, there are steps Michigan residents can take to protect themselves,” Johnson said. “Any legitimate agency welcomes the chance to verify whether a contact, either in person or by phone, was appropriate.”

In one case, a customer received a call from someone purporting to be an employee of the Alpena Secretary of State office. The caller ID showed a valid state number. The customer correctly hung up the phone and called to verify whether the call was legitimate.

Johnson offered the following tips to help prevent fraud and protect personal information:

  • If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of the caller’s claim to be a Secretary of State employee, hang up and call the Department of State Information Center at 888-767-6424.

The Secretary of State’s Office will not:

  • Call and ask for PINs, passwords or access to your bank account or credit card numbers
  • Threaten to suspend your driver’s license or vehicle registration if you refuse to divulge personal or financial information
  • Demand immediate payment to resolve a problem

If you suspect that the caller ID information displayed on your phone has been falsified, or you think the rules for protecting the privacy of your telephone number have been violated, you can file a complaint with the FCC. You have multiple options for filing a complaint with the FCC:

  • File a complaint online
  • By phone: 1-888-CALL-FCC (225-5322); TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (835-5322); ASL Videophone: 1-844-432-2275
  • By mail (please include your name, address, contact information and as much detail about your complaint as possible) to the Federal Communications Commission; Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau; Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division; 445 12th Street, S.W.; Washington, DC 20554

For more about the Secretary of State’s Office:

To find Secretary of State office locations and services, visit www.michigan.gov/sos. Sign up for the official Secretary of State Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/michsos and Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/michigansos. Online services are available at www.expresssos.com.

Customers may call the Department of State Information Center to speak to a customer-service representative at 888-SOS-MICH (767-6424).

Secretary of State Announces Temporary Alternative Online Renewal System

Move necessary due to issues with current option

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Secretary of State today announced that customers can still renew their license plate tabs or watercraft registration online using an alternative Online Renewal System.

A link to this temporary option is available by clicking on “Online Services” at michigan.gov/sos.

“Even though they’ve had 10 years to complete a re-designed SOS computer system, the vendor failed to deliver so we had to terminate the contract,” Johnson said. “We even had to sue to get the vendor to show up to work and give the state access to our own computer code.

“The time spent in court fighting the vendor to return to work and give the state the computer code delayed vital work on ExpressSOS.com and significantly affected our customers’ ability to use the online services. We’re committed to finding a permanent solution that meets our customers’ needs. In the meantime, we want to make sure customers know we have a temporary option.”

If eligible, customers can still renew or replace their driver’s license or ID card, process address changes or request a duplicate title or registration through ExpressSOS.com. With the Print ’N Go option, customers can print a proof-of-purchase receipt and drive while they wait for their tabs or license to come in the mail.

While the department continues to finalize some of the processes delayed by issues with the vendor, customers who are having difficulty renewing their vehicle tabs or watercraft registration on ExpressSOS.com are encouraged to try the Online Renewal Service. Customers should be sure to exit ExpressSOS.com before re-trying through the Online Renewal Service.

The Secretary of State offers other ways to do business more conveniently with the department, including Self-Service Stations and MI-TIME Line, which allows customers to schedule an appointment or get in line online at 18 of the busiest offices.

Background information about the vendor, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Co., is available here and here.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, Partners Recognize Donate Life Month

Residents encouraged to consider organ, tissue and eye donation

DETROIT, Mich. – Citing an increased need for organ, tissue and eye donors, especially in Wayne County, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson today encouraged residents to join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry.

“With more than 3,500 people awaiting a potentially life-saving organ transplant, we still need more names on the registry,” Johnson said as dozens of organ donation volunteers visited Secretary of State offices statewide to encourage people to sign up. “This is especially true in Wayne County, where one-third of all adults waiting for a transplant reside, and where 39 percent of adults are listed on the registry, compared to nearly 55 percent of adults statewide.”

Johnson was joined by Rick Hillbom, interim CEO for Gift of Life Michigan, the state’s organ and tissue recovery program; Diana Kern, executive director for Eversight Michigan, the state’s cornea and eye tissue recovery program; those waiting for an organ, and family members whose loved ones donated organs to save the lives of strangers.

“Our state has made huge advances in creating a culture where donation is the norm, where there’s an expectation that people will choose to save and improve lives,” Hillbom said. “We could not have come this far without the dedication and support of our Secretary of State colleagues. Donation is a selfless act that leaves a legacy of generosity.”

Johnson presented Shining Star Awards to Deacon Lawrence Bailey, the Rev. Ronald Copeland and Artelia Griggs for their work with the Angels for Life program. Angels for Life reaches out through churches and other houses of worship to share the need for organ donors. All three of the awardees have been instrumental in sharing the message in Detroit and Wayne County, according to Gift of Life Michigan. Bailey is a kidney recipient. Copeland is a liver recipient and Griggs is a donor mother.

Johnson also announced the statewide Transplant Center Challenge, a competition between each of Michigan’s nine transplant centers to see who can add the most new donors to the Michigan Organ Donor Registry over the next year. Four of the transplant centers are located in Wayne County, including Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Harper University Hospital, Henry Ford Hospital and St. John Hospital and Medical Center.

Johnson made huge changes in the way the Secretary of State’s office approached organ donation after she was elected in 2010. At that time only 27 percent of eligible residents had signed up on the Michigan Organ Donor Registry. Working with her partners like Gift of Life Michigan and Eversight Michigan, she created an advisory task force, put organ donor reminders on widely-used SOS forms, enlisted social media and directed employees to ask customers if they wanted to sign up, doubling the percentage of names on the list. About 85 percent of people who sign up do so through the Secretary of State’s Office.

Today marks Donate Life Day when dozens of volunteers from Gift of Life Michigan, Eversight Michigan and Michigan Lions and Lioness Clubs visit Secretary of State offices across the state to tell their stories. These volunteers have a personal connection to organ donation, either as recipients, family and friends of donors or people currently waiting for an organ.

“On Donate Life Day last year, thanks to more than 120 volunteers, we added 1,619 new names to the Michigan Organ Donor Registry,” Kern said. “We are so grateful to the Secretary of State and her staff for their dedication to improving and saving lives across the state.”

According to national statistics, 18 people die each day from the lack of available organs for transplant. However, one donor can save up to eight lives and enhance the lives of up to 50 people.

Anyone can join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry by visiting www.Michigan.gov/sos or any Secretary of State office. Those who sign up receive a heart emblem for their driver’s license that indicates their decision to be an organ donor. A new card with a permanent heart emblem is issued at renewal time.

Secretary of State unveils Resources to Help Aging Drivers

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, MDOT and other officials unveil resources to help aging drivers

Residents 65 and older comprise the fastest growing segment of the state’s population
LANSING – If you are concerned about an aging loved one’s driving habits or what will happen when it’s time to give up the keys, finding help can be challenging.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and a coalition of stakeholders are providing some much-needed answers through a new state resource for aging drivers, their families and the professionals that work with them. The Safe Drivers Smart Options: Keys to Lifelong Mobility website was officially launched today to provide information about driving, mobility and aging.

“In our car-centric world, seniors don’t want to lose their independence,” Johnson said. “Our goal is to help aging drivers develop strategies that will keep them driving for as long as it is safe to do so. The website also provides options and resources that can ease the transition when the time comes for an aging loved one to give up the car keys.”

Johnson timed the announcement, which was held at the Michigan Library and Historical Center Forum, to coincide with the start of Older Driver Safety Awareness Week. Joining her was Michigan State Police Director Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue; David Wresinski, Transportation Planning Bureau director for the Michigan Department of Transportation; and Paula Kartje, a licensed occupational therapist and driver rehabilitation specialist.

The Safe Drivers Smart Options website at www.michigan.gov/agingdriver is a statewide strategy to address the mobility needs of Michigan’s aging population. The goal is to make sure drivers, their families and professionals have the tools needed to keep aging individuals safe and mobile, whether that’s behind the wheel of a car or on public transportation. Some of the many resources provided through the website will help:

– Aging drivers in assessing their driving skills, finding classes and training specifically for mature drivers, identifying issues that may adversely affect their driving ability, developing strategies that allow them to continue driving safely, and understanding what to do when the time comes to stop driving.

– Families and friends talk with aging drivers about their driving and any problems that are evident, provide resources for families to assist aging drivers in retiring from driving and in finding alternate sources of transportation.

– Connect healthcare professionals, law enforcement personnel and other professional caregivers that work with older adults to resources to better evaluate the needs and concerns of aging drivers, identify physical and mental health issues that impede driving and develop coping strategies to enhance mobility safely.

“Ensuring the safety of the motoring public is a priority for law enforcement,” stated Etue. “The materials available on the Safe Drivers Smart Options website put important safety information and resources readily available at the click of a mouse to anyone seeking specific assistance and guidance when dealing with an aging driver.”

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, Michigan Department of Transportation, Secretary of State and Michigan State Police, along with the expertise of numerous other state and private sector organizations, provided the resources for the website.

“When MDOT initiated the idea for an older driver safety strategy in 2013, we knew it had to be a joint effort with a variety of partners,” Wresinski said. “These include healthcare, social services, and public safety officials. It’s a great example of government and non-governmental organizations working together.”

Partner organizations include AARP Michigan, AAA, Michigan Trauma Coalition, and Michigan Academy of Family Physicians.

Michigan has one of the oldest populations in the country. According to the 2010 census, 14 percent of residents are age 65 or older, and this age group is the fastest growing demographic in the state. Secretary of State records show that for drivers 65 and older, there are currently 1,382,133 Michigan residents with a driver’s license compared to 1,049,582 license holders of the same ages in 2005.

“I’m very excited that we now have a comprehensive, easy-to-navigate resource that provides opportunities for driver self-assessment, educational information to keep people driving for as long as possible, and resources to guide drivers, families and professionals through the driving retirement process when necessary,” Kartje said.

“We’re very proud of this latest tool to help motorists stay safe on the road,” Johnson said. “This website takes a challenging and difficult topic and makes it easy to get the answers you and your family need to keep an aging loved one safe and mobile.”

For more information, visit the Safe Drivers Smart Options website at www.michigan.gov/agingdriver.

For media questions, please call Gisgie Dávila Gendreau or Fred Woodhams at 517-373-2520.

For more about the Secretary of State’s Office:
To find Secretary of State office locations and services, visit www.michigan.gov/sos. Sign up for the official Secretary of State Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/michsos and Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/michigansos. Online services are available at www.expresssos.com.

Customers may call the Department of State Information Center to speak to a customer-service representative at 888-SOS-MICH (767-6424).

Judge Orders Hewlett-Packard to Turn Over Source Code to State

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A Kent County judge today ordered global information technology company Hewlett-Packard to turn over computer source code to the state of Michigan. The court recognized in its ruling that success on the state’s breach of contract claim “appeared inevitable,” and that the state was the rightful owner of the computer source code.

“We respect the ruling of the court, and its recognition that the state was wrongfully deprived of property it had fully paid for,” Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said. “It’s a shame we had to take them to court to force them to honor their agreement and responsibilities.”

The state of Michigan terminated its contract with HP for cause in August, and subsequently sued HP in Kent County Circuit Court in September after the company failed to deliver on a $49 million contract. Michigan becomes the sixth state motor vehicle agency, along with those in California, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico and Vermont, that is no longer working with the company, according to media reports.

Today’s ruling addressed the state’s request for an injunction to force HP to provide computer source code that is necessary to ensure the state’s ability to maintain and manage its ExpressSOS website, which is used by millions of Michigan residents. The larger lawsuit brought by the state for breach of the contract continues to move through the court system.
For now, the state’s focus is on getting the knowledge and systems in place for a smooth transition away from HP. Based on the court’s decision, the state now can focus on implementing the requirements of the new road funding law and seek a qualified vendor to replace HP.

For media questions, please call Gisgie Gendreau or Fred Woodhams at 517-373-2520.
For more about the Secretary of State’s Office:
To find Secretary of State office locations and services, visit www.michigan.gov/sos. Sign up for the official Secretary of State Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/michsos and Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/michigansos. Online services are available at www.expresssos.com.

Customers may call the Department of State Information Center to speak to a customer-service representative at 888-SOS-MICH (767-6424).

Secretary of State Combats No. 1 Cause of Teen Deaths: Traffic Crashes

Johnson encourages parent participation during National Teen Driver Safety Week

LANSING, Mich. – Parents need to know that the greatest risk to teenagers is a traffic crash and what they teach their young driver can help avoid a tragedy, says Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.

As part of National Teen Driver Safety Week, Johnson is encouraging parents to be more involved in teaching their kids safe driving behaviors.

Johnson also announced winning high schools in the Distraction-Free Detroit contest that was part of her department’s campaign with The Sam Bernstein Law Firm to educate teens about the dangers of distracted driving.

The Michigan Secretary of State’s Office and The Parent’s Supervised Driving Program are promoting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) “5 to Drive” campaign as part of National Teen Driver Safety Week, which runs Oct. 18-24.

“Even though your teen might be gaining independence and getting older, protecting them from harm shouldn’t stop,” said Johnson, herself a mother of a teenager. “The ‘5 to Drive’ campaign and The Parent’s Supervised Driving Program give parents the tools they need to keep their children driver safe.”

The campaign encourages parents to talk to their young drivers about five critical safe driving recommendations:

No cell phones while driving
No extra passengers who cause distractions
No speeding
No alcohol
No driving or riding without a seat belt

Crashes are the leading cause of death for 14-to-18-year-olds in the United States, according to NHTSA. In 2013, 2,614 teen (15-to-19-year-old) drivers were involved in fatal crashes and an estimated 130,000 were injured. In nearly 6 out of 10 incidents, driver distraction was involved, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. A recent NHTSA survey showed that only 25 percent of parents have had a serious talk with their kids about the key components of driving.

Johnson has partnered with the national nonprofit group Safe Roads Alliance since 2013 to offer The Parent’s Supervised Driving Program, a comprehensive instructional tool aimed at helping parents coach their teens. Program guidebooks are given to parents of teens who receive a Level 1 Learner’s License. A free mobile app, RoadReady®, is also available to log the required minimum 50 hours of supervised driving time including 10 hours at night.

“The first six months of independent driving are the most dangerous that a driver will face in his or her lifetime,” said Safe Roads Alliance President Jeff Larason.

More information for parents is available at www.theparentssuperviseddrivingprogram.com and at www.safercar.gov/parents.

In the Distraction-Free Detroit contest that concluded Oct. 12, high-schoolers in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties had the opportunity to take a stand against distracted driving and win $2,500 for their school provided by The Sam Bernstein Law Firm.

About 5,000 students at participating schools went to Michigan.gov/TeenDriver to take a pledge against distracted driving. More than 2,500 parents, school faculty, staff and supporters also went to the site to take a quiz. Total points earned were divided by school population and winners were selected in the four enrollment-based classifications.

The schools, ranked by participation rate:

Class A – Marion HS (Bloomfield Hills), Riverview HS, Utica HS, St. Mary Preparatory HS (Orchard Lake), Franklin HS (Livonia), Southfield HS, Warren Mott HS, Carlson HS (Gibraltar), Romeo HS, Groves HS (Beverly Hills), Troy HS, Stevenson HS (Sterling Heights), Seaholm HS (Birmingham), Novi HS, Utica Eisenhower HS (Shelby Township), Athens HS (Troy)

Class B – South Lake HS (St. Clair Shores), Advanced Technology Academy (Dearborn), Lamphere HS (Madison Heights), César Chávez Academy HS (Detroit), Clarenceville HS (Livonia), University Prep Science & Math HS (Detroit), Regina HS (Warren)

Class C – Memphis HS, Shrine Catholic HS (Royal Oak), West Side Academy (Detroit)

Class D – Universal Academy (Detroit), Westside Christian Academy (Detroit), Auburn Hills Christian School

Johnson commended all schools and students for participating and gave special mention to Utica High School, which didn’t have the highest participation rate but led all schools with 883 pledges taken by students against distracted driving.

“We are honored to work together with Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to raise awareness about this critically important issue,” said Mark Bernstein, president and managing partner of The Sam Bernstein Law Firm. “We are thrilled that this program has educated teens about the risks related to distracted driving. This is just the beginning of our work. There is much to be done.”

For more about the Secretary of State’s Office:
To find Secretary of State office locations and services, visit www.michigan.gov/sos. Sign up for the official Secretary of State Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/michsos and Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/michigansos. Online services are available at www.expresssos.com.

Customers may call the Department of State Information Center to speak to a customer-service representative at 888-SOS-MICH (767-6424).

Michigan Sues HP After Company Fails to Deliver on Delayed Project

Project was to replace aging Secretary of State computer system

LANSING, Mich. – The state of Michigan today sued Hewlett-Packard Co. in Kent County Circuit Court after it failed to deliver on a $49 million contract despite having 10 years to complete the project to replace aging computer systems at Secretary of State offices around the state.

“I inherited a stalled project when I came into office in 2011 and, despite our aggressive approach to hold HP accountable and ensure they delivered, they failed,” Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said. “We have no choice but to take HP to court to protect Michigan taxpayers.”

The suit comes after months of negotiations which culminated in the state issuing a termination for cause letter on Aug. 28. Despite requirements in the contract that – even if terminated – HP still must provide support to ensure services to Michigan are not affected, HP staff has failed to report to work since Aug. 31.

Since 2005, global information technology company HP has been the contractor for the Business Application Modernization project, which was supposed to replace the Secretary of State’s mainframe-based computer system used by all 131 offices and many internal work areas. The legacy system, which was largely built in the late 1960s with now-outdated programming languages, is costly to maintain and update. The 2010 deadline for HP to deliver the system replacement was not met and the department continues to use legacy systems.

For now, Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget and SOS staff will work to continue to provide the best customer service possible.

Shortly after taking office in 2011, Johnson publicly addressed the project’s lack of progress after the state had already paid out $27.5 million for a system that, at the time she took office, had not delivered a single function to the state.

In partnership with DTMB, Johnson successfully demanded HP reset the terms of the contract to put in place clear timelines for delivery and penalties if HP was unable to deliver. HP agreed to the renegotiated contract.

Based on media reports, Michigan joins the motor-vehicle agencies in five other states – California, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico and Vermont – who have also parted with HP after attempting similar computer modernization projects.

“Our DTMB partners and I are gravely disappointed that this action to sue is necessary, but HP simply failed the state of Michigan,” Johnson said. “Our focus now will be on looking for options that allow us to continue to provide the best possible service at the lowest possible cost to our customers.”

For more about the Secretary of State’s Office:
To find Secretary of State office locations and services, visit www.michigan.gov/sos. Sign up for the official Secretary of State Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/michsos and Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/michigansos. Online services are available at www.expresssos.com.

Customers may call the Department of State Information Center to speak to a customer-service representative at 888-SOS-MICH (767-6424).

Secretary of State Offices Join 25th Annual Harvest Gathering Food Drive

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson promotes participation

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson today encouraged people across the state to participate in the 25th Annual Michigan Harvest Gathering food drive.

Johnson and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette joined the Food Bank Council of Michigan in promoting the campaign during an event at the Lansing City Market today. Schuette and his wife co-founded the annual effort in 1991.

“For 25 years, the Harvest Gathering campaign has seen the people of our great state stand together to not only feed the hungry but to bring them hope,” Johnson said. “Michigan families saw some dark days during those 25 years but Harvest Gathering has never let those families down. I want to thank everyone here today, from the people working the food banks to the truck drivers, sponsors and office workers, for keeping the momentum going.”

Johnson also praised Secretary of State staff for making the food drive so successful every year. Since 2011, Secretary of State offices have collected almost 30 tons of food donations. The Secretary of State portion of the Harvest Gathering campaign runs through Nov. 25 this year.

“Secretary of State offices throughout Michigan have provided vital outreach into local communities for this campaign,” said Phillip Knight, executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan. “Michigan Harvest Gathering could not be celebrating this milestone year without the support of such dedicated partners in hunger relief.”

In Michigan, 16 percent of households struggle to put food on the table and 21 percent of children don’t know where their next meal will come from, according to the Food Bank Council of Michigan. The organization coordinates the program, which supplies the state’s regional food banks through donations of food and money. The regional food banks serve food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters in every Michigan county.

In 2014, the entire Michigan Harvest Gathering campaign collected 386,922 pounds (193 tons) of food and more than $375,000. This year, the campaign’s goal is to collect enough food and funds for two million meals.

Nonperishable food items with a valid expiration date can be dropped off at any Secretary of State office.

Food items especially needed include:  canned meats, dry beans, soups, beef stew, pasta products, peanut butter and tuna. Other items include baby food or formula, diapers, soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes. The Food Bank requests donors avoid items in glass, as they often break in transit. Financial donations may be made online at www.feedmichigan.org.

For media questions, please call Gisgie Gendreau
or Fred Woodhams at 517-373-2520.
For more about the Secretary of State’s Office:

To find Secretary of State office locations and services, visit www.michigan.gov/sos. Sign up for the official Secretary of State Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/michsos and Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/michigansos. Online services are available at www.expresssos.com.

Customers may call the Department of State Information Center to speak to a customer-service representative at 888-SOS-MICH (767-6424).

For Clear Sailing, Renew Your Watercraft Registration Online at Expresssos.Com

Watercraft renewal notices are sent in March

LANSING, Mich. – Secretary of State Ruth Johnson reminds boat owners of the ease and convenience of renewing their watercraft registration online at ExpressSOS.com as her office begins sending out more than 252,000 watercraft renewal notices.

“I encourage all boat owners to renew online,” Johnson said. “Where would you rather be, preparing your boat for a fun-filled season on the lake, or renewing your registration in person? Renewing online is quick and easy, leaving you more time to enjoy your boat.”

In 2014, more than 47,000 watercraft renewals were submitted online.

ExpressSOS.com offers two methods for renewal. Express Renewal is fast and easy, requiring only the boat’s registration number to renew. Online Renewal PLUS lists all vehicles and watercraft eligible for renewal and lets customers complete other online transactions at the same time, such as changing an address or renewing a driver’s license.

Michigan Reaches Historic Milestone

Michigan reaches historic milestone: More than half of all adults are now registered organ donors. In the last four years, 1.8 million more people sign up to give the gift of life.

 LANSING – Secretary of State Ruth Johnson today announced that the number of Michigan adults registered as organ, tissue and eye donors has now surpassed 50 percent and she credited her staff with helping to bring out the record-breaking growth.

Johnson was joined by partners from Gift of Life Michigan and the Michigan Eye-Bank at the Hamtramck Area PLUS Office on 9001 Joseph Campau Street in Hamtramck to thank Secretary of State staff and customers for their continued support of Michigan’s Organ Donor  Registry. Other volunteers visited branches statewide to thank staff for their efforts.

“When I first took office, Michigan was near the bottom of the list nationally in terms of organ donors, with only 27 percent of eligible residents signed up, ” Johnson said. “Now, thanks to the hard work of branch staff, volunteers and other passionate advocates, we have reached the national average and registering as a donor has become a cultural norm. Every name means hope for the 3,400 people in Michigan still waiting for a life-saving or life-enhancing transplant.”

After she was elected in 2010, Johnson made expanding the organ donor rolls a priority but insisted that it be done at little to no cost to taxpayers. She directed her staff to start asking customers if they wanted to sign up, created a task force of leading experts and began promoting organ donor registration throughout her branch offices.  About 85 percent of people who sign up do so through the Secretary of State’s office.

“We thank our partners for their efforts, and we especially thank the people of Michigan for recognizing that they have the power to heal lives by becoming organ, tissue and eye donors,” said Richard Pietroski, CEO of Gift of Life Michigan, the state’s organ and tissue recovery program.

“Secretary Johnson and her staff work hard to serve the people of Michigan,” said Lisa Langley, executive director of the Michigan Eye-Bank. “Taking the extra time to encourage people to join the registry is appreciated by all those who can see again, walk again or breathe again. We look forward to working with her office as we continue to grow the registry—one person at a time.”

More than 3,825,000 people are on the Michigan Organ Donor Registry. Every donor has the ability to save up to eight lives through organ donation and improve up to 50 more through cornea and tissue donation.

“People in Michigan are so generous, so caring and want to help others if they can,” Johnson said. “Every name on the donor registry means hope for waiting families. I’m so proud of our Secretary of State employees and their commitment to saving and improving lives throughout this state by asking customers to join the donor registry.”

Anyone can join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry, regardless of age or medical history. Go to www.ExpressSOS.com, call 800-482-4881 or visit any Secretary of State office.

For more information on organ, eye and tissue donation, visit www.giftoflifemichigan.org or www.michiganeyebank.org. To sign up to the Michigan Organ Donor Registry and to access some of the Secretary of State’s most popular services, visit www.ExpressSOS.com.

New Option to Waive Driver Responsibility Fees

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson promotes new option to waive Driver Responsibility Fees through community service. Nonprofits and those who serve them will also benefit.

DETROIT ‒ About 168,000 people could perform community service instead of paying hundreds of dollars for some Driver Responsibility Fees, a move that benefits both drivers and the agencies that serve Michigan communities around the state, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said recently at the North American International Auto Show.

“Traffic ticket fees, court costs and higher insurance premiums are difficult enough,” Johnson added. “With this new program, motorists can meet their legal obligations while minimizing any added financial burden to their families and while also helping people in their community.”

Johnson voted against the fees as a state representative and has supported eliminating them, calling them a burden. The new program gives motorists an opportunity to eliminate their Driver Responsibility Fees by completing 10 hours of volunteer work for each qualifying assessment on their driving record. The Michigan Department of Treasury mailed a letter with additional information to those who are eligible; more details are also available at http://www.michigan.gov/driverresponsibility.

Sam Slaughter, Detroit Auto Dealers Association president; Lisa Machesky, Lighthouse of Oakland County Chief Executive Officer; and Louis D. Piszker, chief executive officer for the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency joined Johnson at the auto show announcement.

“We know that lack of transportation is a significant barrier to long-term self-sufficiency and financial stability in our community,” Piszker said. “This service program aligns with our mission to empower people. It puts the onus on the individual to take the initiative, fulfill their obligations and move forward on a positive path.”

The Driver Responsibility Fee-Community Service program began Jan.1 and will end on Dec. 31. Eligible candidates must submit an application to the treasury department specifying which qualifying assessments they would like waived and what type of community service they will perform. Once their applications are approved, they will have 45 days to complete their volunteer work. Those with several qualifying assessments may request a deferral for some of them and, if approved, complete the remainder at a later date during the year.

Eligible individuals must volunteer to work for someone other than a family member without receiving any compensation. Volunteer opportunities can include local nonprofits (organizations classified as a 501c(3)), places of worship, schools, or city and state agencies.

The Driver Responsibility Fees that can be erased by community service are for No Proof of Insurance, No Insurance, Driving Without Proper License/Endorsement/Vehicle Group Designator, Driving While License Expired, and Driving While Unlicensed or License Not Valid.

Residents with questions about the program and the qualifications needed to apply can also call the Department of Treasury at 800-950-6227.

Statement from Secretary of State Ruth Johnson

Common-sense option to those with Driver’s Responsibility Fees

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson today issued the following statement after Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation today giving drivers the option to use community service as a way to pay for Driver Responsibility Fees starting in January:

“I support giving hardworking Michigan families the option to invest in their communities through volunteering as a way of addressing costly Driver Responsibility Fees.

“This is a common-sense option that addresses a double penalty for drivers who already have to pay fines, court costs and, often, higher insurance rates for violations.”

Johnson voted against the creation of the fees in 2003 when she served in the Michigan House. She has worked to see them reduced and in 2011supported the repeal of $150 and $200 Driver Responsibility Fees for minor violations.

For media questions, please call Gisgie Dávila Gendreau at 517-373-2520.

For more about the Secretary of State’s Office:
To find Secretary of State office locations and services, visit www.michigan.gov/sos. Sign up for the official Secretary of State Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/michsos and Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/michigansos. Online services are available at www.expresssos.com.

Customers may call the Department of State Information Center to speak to a customer-service representative at 888-SOS-MICH (767-6424).

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson Announces Expanded Plan to Protect Consumers

Better technology, best practices will stop scams, catch criminals

LANSING, Mich. – Secretary of State Ruth Johnson today announced a new plan to thwart scammers trying to take advantage of law-abiding citizens by selling fake insurance or through other tricks. The move is part of her ongoing efforts to protect consumers and fight auto insurance fraud.

The new efforts use cutting-edge technology, expand best practices and maximize resources. They include:
• A comprehensive review of her department’s processes, technology and structure to determine how best to detect and deter fraud.
• Data analysis to identify signs in transactions that may indicate fraud.
• Expanding the verification of the thousands of insurance certificates the department receives from customers daily.
• An upgrade in case management software to give department investigators the best tools for tracking down fraudulent activity.
• A roundtable discussion with business leaders about fraud to seek their advice and ensure the department is following best practices.

“These new measures will strengthen consumer protection and root out fraud,” Johnson said. “Using cutting-edge technology and through our continued use of best practices, we’ll dig deeper into the millions of transactions we process each year to catch criminals running their scams and stop them from taking advantage of law-abiding citizens.”

The Secretary of State’s Office has contracted with a business consulting firm to complete a full review of the department’s business processes, technology and organizational structure as it relates to fraud. The effort will include review of the systems associated with the management and disposition of fraud cases handled within the department. The project’s goal is to maximize resources to supplement existing investigative principles, to handle issues that are discovered and to add additional steps to deter fraud.

In another initiative, Johnson’s office is looking to use data analysis to compare elements of transactions with those of previous fraudulent ones. Similarities can be used as an alert that a fraud investigation may be needed.

The department has received funding to add staff to a new unit that will verify the validity of the 10,000 to 20,000 insurance certificates that come in through the mail each day from customers renewing their vehicle registration in addition to the reviews already being done in Secretary of State offices. Johnson’s team is also planning to upgrade its case management software so department investigators are best equipped for tracking down fraud.

Plans also call for a roundtable discussion about fraud with a group of leaders from her Business Roundtable that Johnson convened earlier in her term. The discussion would include lessons learned and best practices to keep the department at the forefront of protecting consumers from fraudulent activity.

“We highly value the insights of Michigan’s business leaders, who have solutions from the private sector that can help us in state government,” Johnson said. “We are united in purpose to stop the scam artists who cost the rest of us money.”

Some of the new initiatives are the result of recent recommendations by the Fighting Auto Insurance Rip-Offs (FAIR) Task Force. Others reflect Johnson’s intent to crack down on any type of fraud that targets the department and its customers.

For media questions, please call
Gisgie Dávila Gendreau at 517-373-2520.

To find Secretary of State office locations and services, visit www.michigan.gov/sos. Sign up for the official Secretary of State Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/michsos and Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/michigansos. Online services are available at www.expresssos.com.

Customers may call the Department of State Information Center to speak to a customer-service representative at 888-SOS-MICH (767-6424).

Secretary Johnson: We Must Remember Veterans Day, Sacrifices Made By Veterans

Secretary of State offices will close for the Nov. 11 holiday

LANSING, Mich. – Secretary of State Ruth Johnson reminds residents that, in honor of Veterans Day, all Secretary of State offices and the Office of the Great Seal will be closed Tuesday, Nov. 11. She also encouraged people to thank veterans for their service and sacrifice.

“I had a rare opportunity to visit our troops in the Middle East in 2012 to study how to make overseas voting easier for those in the military,” Johnson said. “I will never forget the sense of honor, duty and patriotism that those young men and women displayed in spite of the terrible conditions. We owe everyone who has ever served this country a great debt for their service and sacrifice.”

Michigan is home to more than 680,000 veterans, the 11th largest population nationally. “Patriotism and service run deep in Michigan,” Johnson added. “This Veterans Day, take a moment to thank a vet for his or her service.”

Originally known as Armistice Day, this special Nov. 11 holiday was first celebrated in 1919 to recognize the men and women who died during World War 1. In 1938, it became an official federal holiday. The name was changed to Veterans Day in the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War to commemorate veterans of all wars.

Most people renewing license plates and driver’s licenses and ID cards can do business online at www.ExpressSOS.comLicense plate tabs also can be renewed at Self-Service Stations, many of which are available around the clock. Visit the Branch Office Locator at www.michigan.gov/sos to find a Self-Service Station near you.

 

Secretary of State’s Shining Star Award recognizes Muskegon County Medical Examiner

Dr. Joyce deJong honored for supporting tissue and eye donation

Lansing, Mich. – Secretary of State Ruth Johnson awarded Muskegon County Medical Examiner Dr. Joyce deJong with a Shining Star Award for her support of organ, tissue and eye donation.

“Every year, Dr. deJong’s office makes dozens of referrals for tissue and eye donation, contacting Gift of Life Michigan or the Michigan Eye-Bank to find out if someone was a registered donor or seeking authorization from their families so that they may help others,” Johnson said. “A quarter of all referrals to the Sparrow Medical Group originated from the County Medical Examiner’s office. Because of this, Gift of Life Michigan and the Michigan Eye-Bank regard Dr. deJong as their top champion in the medical examiner field statewide.”

Secretary Of State To Run Registry Protecting Children From Adult Internet And Phone Ads

(Submitted by Michigan Secretary of State)

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is urging Michigan families to block electronic adult ads, messages and pornography from reaching children by joining the Michigan Child Protection Registry. Studies show an increasing number of young people are using internet-based devices, with children as young as age two using tablets, mobile phones and computers.

Similar to the National Do Not Call Registry, the Michigan Child Protection Registry is a free and secure program that families can use to block adult-oriented ads for products like alcohol, tobacco, pornography, online gambling and illegal drugs from reaching their email inboxes, cell phones or instant messenger IDs. Once a family has entered their information, companies that send messages that advertise or link to prohibited products or services are required to remove them from their mailing lists within 30 days.•

Secretary Johnson Gives Website Warning

Don’t confuse DMV-themed websites with official Michigan.gov site

LANSING, Mich. – Secretary of State Ruth Johnson today warned Michigan residents about paying for online Secretary of State services without first checking that the website they’re using is the official Michigan.gov site.

Secretary of State staff are receiving more and more complaints from customers who believed they visited a Secretary of State website to complete a transaction and paid a fee, only to later find that the fee did not go to the state, and they did not get the services they needed.

Unfortunately, these customers used an online search engine that directed them to sites not affiliated with the state of Michigan when they were looking for driver’s license and vehicle license plate renewal options or other Secretary of State services. These sites misleadingly charge for services or information that are normally available at no cost on the official department website.

“People should examine the site they’re on closely before agreeing to pay,” Johnson said. “Double-check the Web address to make sure it’s an official state of Michigan site before you pay for services that might be free. Don’t fall for misleading sites.”