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Secretary of State Unveils Secure & Fair Elections Initiative

OCTOBER 12, 2011Safe and Fair Elections SAFE Logo

Ruth Johnson to push for tougher laws,
clean voter rolls and greater election integrity

LANSING, MI -- Secretary of State Ruth Johnson today announced a comprehensive plan to help ensure integrity in Michigan's elections through stronger campaign finance laws, new policies and the expanded use of technology. The package is known as the Secure and Fair Elections, or SAFE Initiative.

"There is nothing more important to America, to our values and democracy, than clean and fair elections," Johnson said at a press conference held at the Secretary of State headquarters in Lansing.

"Michigan has a strong elections system with dedicated, committed clerks and election workers," added Johnson, who serves as Michigan's chief elections official. "But there is always room for improvement. Our plan provides new tools to make our elections even more fair by closing loopholes and requiring more transparency and accountability."

Johnson was joined at the press conference by Sen. Dave Robertson of Grand Blanc Township, Rep. Sharon Tyler of Niles, and other legislators sponsoring bills that achieve the initiative's goals. Also attending was Ottawa County Clerk Dan Krueger.

"Secure and fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy," Robertson said. "The legislation we're introducing as part of this initiative will increase election disclosure and promote integrity. For example, anyone who tries to skirt campaign finance rules by not filing will face steep consequences. Our citizens deserve no less."

Said Tyler: "Every vote counts, and each voter has the right to a secure ballot box, and full disclosure regarding ballot initiatives. Voters ought to know the facts about who supported placing the questions on the ballot in front of them. We will work together to secure the integrity of the elections process in Michigan."

The SAFE Initiative would affect Michigan elections, from beginning to end, with changes to voter registration and Election Day policies to post-election ballot security. The SAFE Initiative calls for:

  • Tougher campaign finance laws, including creation of felony charges and possible forfeiture of funds for the worst offenders.
  • New laws to prevent stealth efforts, such as the fake Tea Party, by requiring organizations to file campaign finance report so voters know who is really behind those efforts.
  • Renewed efforts to clean up Michigan's voter rolls, which today include deceased individuals, those who have permanently moved out of state and non-citizens. Federal support is key to these efforts.
  • Creation of an Election Crimes Unit that will include an Election Day response team and hotline so serious allegations can be investigated.
  • Expanded use of electronic or "e-pollbooks" at the polls on Election Day to prevent fraud and reduce clerical errors.
  • New election night policies so errors and issues can be immediately detected by election workers once the polls close.
  • Post-election audits.
  • Closing photo ID loopholes.

"Some of the people on what is called our Qualified Voter File aren't 'qualified' at all -- they're dead, they've moved out of state or they're not U.S. citizens," Johnson said, citing a 2008 Pew Center on the States report that indicated an impossible 102.54 percent of eligible adults in Michigan were registered to vote. "That doesn't add up and indicates vulnerabilities in the system."

At the same time, Johnson has encouraged voter registration efforts. Every 18-year-old receives a postcard reminding them to register to vote. Every branch office customer who isn't registered to vote is asked, with the understanding they must be a U.S. citizen. Johnson is also using her Mobile Office for college campus voter registration drives.

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

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