MI Secretary of State talks election security, voter intimidation and added staff with TV5

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson was in mid-Michigan Thursday to talk about election security, battling misinformation and much more.
Published: Oct. 28, 2022 at 5:56 AM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WNEM) - Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson was in mid-Michigan Thursday to talk about election security, battling misinformation and what’s being done to ensure a safe election for all voters.

The hiring of additional staff will aid in getting absentee ballots out and counted in a timely fashion.

“When it comes to personnel we’ve recruited over 11,000 new poll workers this year in Michigan, and 30,000 in 2020, so we’ve got a whole bunch of people who are ready to lend a hand,” Benson said.

Michiganders have already requested nearly two million absentee ballots. Roughly 772,000 of those have been returned to local clerks.

Absentee ballots can be returned through the mail, to the local clerk’s office or through a local drop box. It must be received by your local clerk by 8 p.m. on election night. Benson said some added measures of security are in place.

“Each of those avenues are equally secure and drop boxes, if one chooses that avenue, do have videos monitoring them,” she said.

In Phoenix, Arizona there are reports of alleged voter intimidation at an outdoor ballot drop box.

“Those stories are few and far between, but voters have concerns about them. They can return their ballots in other ways,” Benson said.

Some local communities, like Clinton Township, have implemented security cameras on drop boxes to monitor potential tampering and stealing.

“The bottom line is just as we did in 2020, we’ll do again, which is ensure that our clerks are empowered to protect our voters from nefarious efforts to disrupt the process and intimidate voters. Voter intimidation is illegal at the federal level and at the state level, and when voter intimidation occurs in our polling places on election day, we’ll be there to ensure that it’s stopped,” Benson said.

Benson spoke about the upcoming election at a town hall, co-hosted by the University of Michigan-Flint, Kettering University, Mott Community College and Campus Vote Project. She described the visit as “really inspiring.”

Flint’s interim city clerk, Davina Donahue, was also present at the town hall to deliver critical election information ahead of the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Donahue is taking over for long time city clerk Inez Brown who retired at the end of September.

Former Genesee County Clerk-Register John Gleason’s retirement was announced by county officials a couple of days ago amid his legal woes.

TV5 asked Benson about reassuring the voters in Genesee County as the general election gets closer. She noted that Gleason’s situation was ongoing, and that the state worked well with the county to conduct a safe and secure primary election in August while Gleason was already sidelined.

“And so we get reports at the state level every week of all the happenings at the clerk’s office, and when there are challenges here in Flint we know we stay in touch with the mayor as well as the clerk’s office and in Saginaw as well,” Benson said.

She noted also that the departure of one person does not take away from the entire team.

“We’ve got layers of security in place, layers of protocol in place to ensure even if a county clerk position is vacant in a particular election, there’s plenty of staff and other people there to make sure the election remains secure,” Benson said.

When asked if she is expecting any legal challenges and whether she is prepared to handle them, she referred back to the 2020 election cycle.

“We saw over 60 legal challenges in the 2020 election cycle, all of them which were dismissed and really identified as PR campaigns masquerading as lawsuits, and so we’ve got -- through the attorney general’s office -- and our general counsel in the department of state, a robust effort prepared to address any potential lawsuits with an eye toward just making sure whoever wins or loses an election that the results are accurate and will of the people is protected,” Benson said.

One way they’re hoping to limit problems at the polls is through having additional people in the field.

“Knowing that problems can continue to emerge or even intentional disruptions happen on election day or throughout, we will have over 50 people in the field on election day, including several here in Flint and in Saginaw to make sure if there are issues as they arise we are able to address them with the utmost focus on protecting security of the process and the accessibility of the election,” Benson said.

To track your absentee ballot, ask questions about voting and fact-check anything you may have been told on social media platforms and deal, visit Michigan.gov/vote.