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Statement of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson Following the June 21 hearing
June 21, 2022
As Michigan’s chief election officer my responsibility is to ensure our elections are accessible, safe, secure, and that the results are an accurate reflection of the will of the people. As election officials we are committed to protecting all voters, regardless of how they voted or who they voted for. Yet it is a role that increasingly forces us – whether we consider ourselves Republicans, Democrats, or independents – to endure threats, harassment, false and malicious attacks on our character and integrity, and sometimes even violence.
Today’s hearing makes clear that we cannot have a secure democracy if we do not protect the security of the people who administer, protect, and stand guard over our elections. Election officials play a critical role in American democracy. We sign up to work elections because we care about our communities and our democracy. We are professionals, deeply committed to and passionate about our work. In towns, cities, and counties across the nation we carry out the free and fair elections that enable American citizens to choose their leaders and make their voices heard.
But right now we are facing an unprecedented wave of continuous, unrelenting harassment and threats.
I’ve experienced these threats firsthand. People have come to my home or threatened me, my staff, and many of the hundreds of clerks and local election officials in our state. As a result there is an omnipresent feeling of anxiety and dread that permeates our daily lives, and our families’ lives.
To be clear, the threats are a direct extension of the efforts to spread false information about the security and accuracy of our elections that we’ve all endured in the years since 2020. Through blatantly false press releases, purely political legislative hearings, bogus legal claims and so called “affidavits” that fail to allege any clear or cogent evidence of wrongdoing, those unhappy with the results of the 2020 presidential election – and now, political candidates courting their support and coveted endorsements – have perpetuated an unprecedented, dangerous, egregious and false campaign to erode the public’s confidence in the results of one of the most secure, accessible and transparent elections in our state – and country’s – history.
One of the results is that election officials have become targets – Republican, Democratic and independent election officials – in every state in this country. Tina Barton, the former Republican clerk of Rochester Hills, Michigan received a deluge of threats after she told the truth about the 2020 election results. Antrim County Clerk Sheryl Guy, a lifelong Republican who has worked in the clerk’s office for decades no longer plans to run for re-election because of the abuse she endures for admitting a human error – a mistake that was quickly fixed and had no impact on the certified results of the election – that was used to falsely fuel a national conspiracy theory that resulted in subsequent litigation. Al Schmidt, a former Republican city commissioner in Philadelphia who oversaw that city’s vote counting, received threats that named his children and included his address and photos of his house.
I – along with thousands of others doing this work – will continue to defend and protect every voter, their voice, and their vote, regardless of how they voted or who they voted for. But we cannot do this alone. We need legislators to pass laws that protect us, our personal information, and the personal information of our families and children. We need elections to be fully and consistently funded by the state and federal government. And we need all Americans, on both sides of the aisle, to stand with us in protecting and defending our democracy, before it’s too late.