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State officials host 'Your Right to Vote' event, discuss elections

September 10, 2021
<p>Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks at a press conference on Sept. 16, 2020.</p>

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks at a press conference on Sept. 16, 2020.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and State Rep. Kara Hope, D-Holt, joined Lansing-area community members Thursday night for a town hall about “your right to vote.”

The event, held in the Ingham County Human Services building, covered topics from absentee voting, the 2020 election and where election officials go from here.

Hope greeted around 30 community members by discussing her commitment to fair elections.

“Protecting your right to vote and expanding access to the ballot has been a priority for me since I got to Lansing,” Hope said.

Benson discussed several topics, mainly the 2020 election and the future of elections in the state. 

“Last year, democracy was tested, again and again by a number of things, not the least of which was a global pandemic,” Benson said.

After thanking election workers for their extraordinary work and ability to truly “meet the moment,” Benson discussed the aftermath of the 2020 election and some lessons that can be learned.

Benson said there are three current attacks on democracy in the state, the first being the claims that the recent election “was anything but a secure election and that the results were anything but an accurate reflection of the will of the people.”

Secondly, Benson called out politicians “trying to legislate off that Big Lie,” thus causing confusion among voters. 

“We worked really hard to give [voters] clarity last year on how to vote, to ensure no matter where they lived or who they voted for that their vote would count,” Benson said.

Finally, she discussed various recently proposed Michigan legislation that works to “make it easier to overturn an election, to interfere with election counting, to even make it easier to threaten election administrators in the future.”

In addition to Benson’s verbal warnings, Benson passed out a packet that highlighted 39 proposed bills which were described by the Secretary of State office as “restrict[ing] voting rights,” “harm[ing] election administration” or otherwise “significantly flawed.” 

Policy changes proposed in these bills include restrictions on ballot drop boxes and “overly specific and restrictive” signature checking.

Benson, who is up for re-election in 2022, is facing a challenge by Republican Kristina Karamo, an educator who was recently endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

Also highlighted at the event was legislation introduced and championed by Hope that would “protect election workers from intimidation and ensure that they can carry out their duties.”

Benson referenced some of the threats and intimidation she and other election officials faced in the last year.

“Of course, after the election, we endured a series of events that neither of us hope are repeated and that certainly we’re all working together to ensure we’re prepared if they are,” Benson said. “A lot of those events really circulated around the threats to election officials that Rep. Hope was talking about earlier. Threats, not just to myself and my staff, which were pernicious themselves, but threats to our local election administrators, threats to poll workers, threats to those who are simply, for very little pay, trying to do their part to protect democracy.”

Representatives from the organizations All Voting Is Local and the Lansing Area League of Women Voters, as well as Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum, were also present at the event.

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