APRIL 19, 2011
New Initiatives to Cut Costs, Streamline Operations &
Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, in the first-ever State
of the Secretary of State Address today in Lansing, highlighted challenges
facing the Department of State, strategies to resolve those issues and outlined
new initiatives to protect integrity in elections.
"In our first 100 days, we have been evaluating nearly every aspect of
Secretary of State operations to find out what works, where our challenges lay
and how we resolve those issues," Johnson said in her presentation, which was
streamed live over the Internet via Ustream. "We owe the taxpayers an accounting
of where we are and what we are going to do."
Among the top challenges outlined by Johnson is outdated technology that has
contributed to unacceptable wait times at some branch offices, the lack of
available online services and inconvenient customer service.
Johnson said a computer system known as the Business Application
Modernization or BAM Project, despite an investment of $27.5 million tax dollars
over the last five years, has never been operational. As a result, service
across the department and branch system has suffered.
"This was supposed to revolutionize the way the Secretary of State Office did
business and put our services online 24/7," said Johnson. "Instead, it has never
worked -- not a single day, not a single hour, not a single minute."
BAM has the potential to move one out of every four customer transactions out
of the branch system and put them online. Johnson said she has enlisted the help
of Gov. Rick Snyder and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and that talks
with the vendor are promising and they have pledged to renew their efforts to
bring the project to completion. "We will hold their feet to the fire," Johnson
said. "Michigan residents deserve no less."
In the meantime, Johnson said the department is working to implement online
services and other changes outside of the BAM project to relieve wait times.
Partnerships with private sector customers such as rental car companies are also
being discussed which would allow them to register thousands of their fleet
vehicles online rather than at branches.
Additionally, Johnson has directed staff to come up with the means to allow
drivers to obtain new license plate tabs, online, right up through their
birthday, by providing those drivers with a printable proof of purchase they can
carry until they receive their tabs in the mail.
Other priority initiatives launched during Johnson's first 100 days in office
- COST-CUTTING and STREAMLINING -- through the implementation of best
business practices, the fostering of public-private partnerships and
expanded online efforts.
- A COMPREHENSIVE ELECTION/LEGISLATIVE REFORM PACKAGE -- which includes
- Create an Election Crimes Unit
- Develop new online and regional election worker training to ensure
ballot security. Election officials from around the state are working
with the Bureau of Elections on this effort.
- Conduct post-election audits.
- Clean up voter rolls by identifying and removing deceased voters and
the names of voters who have moved out of state.
- Require more campaign finance disclosure by closing loopholes,
putting teeth into campaign finance laws and removing obsolete laws from
the books. For example, under one of Johnson's proposals, candidates who
refuse to file campaign finance reports could face possible forfeiture
of their funds.
- Seek subpoena power for the Bureau of Elections, with court
approval, so staff could assist in campaign finance violation
- Launch an iPhone application currently in development would allow
24/7 access to state campaign finance data.
- Promoting vote turnout through a no-reason absentee ballot option
and consolidating school election dates.
- IMPROVE THE STATE'S POOR ORGAN DONOR REGISTRATION RATES -- through
various procedure and policy changes. Michigan current ranks sixth from the
bottom nationally in terms of registered donors.
Johnson, flanked by Secretary of State employees, supporters, organ donation
leaders and business leaders, said the Department of State has made significant
progress in the last three and a half months, including:
- Conducting a "Secret Shopper" program using volunteers from all walks of
life to evaluate service and operations in the branch system. The survey
found wait times of 1-3 hours at some of the Secretary of State's busiest
branches. Johnson said she was pleased that results included largely
positive feedback about Secretary of State staff who were called courteous,
professional and helpful.
- Creating a new checklist, piloted in some branches, to help ensure
customers have the documentation they need before they reach the counter to
help reduce wait times.
- Requiring the department's top managers to attend ethics training.
- Launching a cash-handling task force to ensure the Secretary of State
system uses best business practices in dealing with cash transactions.
- Meeting with top business and industry leaders and job providers across
Michigan for input and suggestions on how government can get out of their
way to assist them so they can get Michigan back to work.
- Cutting, within weeks of taking office, $2.6 million from the
department's general fund budget which accounts for a nearly 20 percent
- Consolidating administrative office space to save as much as $150,000
annually. Additionally, talks are underway with the Michigan State Police to
share office space and secure computer lines while saving tax dollars.
- Striving to give taxpayers the most value for their tax dollars by using
up surplus stationery and envelopes with former Secretary of State Terri
Lynn Land's name on them, saving nearly $50,000.
- Issuing an administrative order allowing local clerks to reduce the
number of election ballot styles they use, which saved $160,000 in one
- Introducing more self-service kiosks and surpassing 34,000 transactions
in March---the highest monthly total in the six-year history of the program.
- Putting plans in place to utilize new technologies, including social
media, to connect with branch employees, customers and the public for their
- Launching an advisory council with physicians, lawmakers, Gift of Life
Michigan, and Michigan Eye-Bank representatives to come up with innovative,
cost-effective ways to improve organ donor registration participation. Many
of their suggestions have been implemented.
- Establishing a new branch policy that would require employees, time
permitting to ask customers if they are interested in joining the Michigan
Organ Donor Registry.
- Developing a pilot project with libraries to promote online services for
those Michigan families without a home computer Internet service.
- Launching a new driver's license to improve security and reduce fraud.
- Issuing a new administrative ruling that will make it easier for city
and township clerks to send secure ballots to men and women serving their
"We've accomplished a lot, but we have an ambitious agenda," said Johnson.
"We are determined to do better. We'll report back next year so Michigan
residents can gauge our progress in providing the best possible service at the
lowest possible cost while safeguarding election integrity and promoting
transparency. We owe them that. These are their tax dollars at work. This is
For more information about the programs and initiatives of the Secretary of
State's Office, visit its website (www.Michigan.gov/sos).
Sign up for the official Twitter feed (www.twitter.com/Michsos)
and Facebook updates (www.facebook.com/Michigansos).
For media questions, please call Randall Thompson at (517) 373-2520.
> Video of the
first-ever State of the Secretary of State Address
> State of the Secretary of State Summary