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Benson and state lawmakers announce plans to protect the people who protect democracy

Secretary Benson with lawmakers

LANSING, Mich. -- Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, the chairs of both the Senate and House elections committees, and numerous other lawmakers today announced legislative plans to protect the people who protect democracy – the thousands of election workers and millions of voters in Michigan.

“We have made great strides expanding the voice and protecting the vote of every Michigan citizen over these last few years, but we have more work to do,” said Secretary Benson. “We are in an era of misinformation with voters being lied to about their right to vote and election workers subject to a near constant barrage of threats and harassment for simply doing their jobs. We must do more to protect the people who protect democracy.”
State Senator Jeremy Moss and State Representative Penelope Tsernoglou, the chairs of the Senate and House elections committees respectively, joined Benson in speaking on the need for stronger legislation, as did State Senator Sylvia Santana, and State Representatives Kara Hope and Amos O’Neal. 
The group said they would work to:

  • Reintroduce and pass legislation to ban and increase the penalty for threatening, harassing, or doxxing election workers and for pressuring election officials to act illegally

  • Introduce legislation to ban deceptive practices in elections such as lying to voters when seeking their signatures on petitions and knowingly sharing false information about elections and citizens’ ability to vote

  • Provide sufficient funding to township, city and county clerks to ensure their security and the security of their elections and voters

    Additionally, Benson announced that she is launching an elections policy working group to suggest, review, and provide feedback on election policies on a rolling basis. The group will be comprised of nonpartisan pro-democracy organizations; Republican, Democratic and nonpartisan clerks; the chairs of both legislative elections committees; and representatives from the Executive Office of the Governor.

“Michigan has had some of the most highly scrutinized elections in the country over the last several cycles and no matter how you measure the metrics, our system has proven to be secure and our election results accurate," said Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield). "This session we intend to build on the successes of our electoral system that have been administered dutifully by Secretary Benson and the dedicated election officials across Michigan. Our democracy works. That is due to Michigan voters, who have shown up in record numbers to make their voices heard and ensure that our state government is an adequate reflection of their will. As Chairman of the Senate Elections and Ethics Committee, I’m looking forward to partnering with Secretary Benson to ushering through a pro-voter agenda.”
“I am committed to working with Secretary Benson and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that every Michigander is empowered to share their voice at the ballot box, our election workers can do their jobs without fear of threat, harassment, or intimidation, and our clerks have the resources they need to run secure, fair, efficient, and transparent elections,” said Rep. Penelope Tsernoglou (D-East Lansing).
“Over the last few years in particular, election workers have been subjected to endless threats and intimidation when they’re just trying to carry out free and fair elections,” said Sen. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton), who previously introduced legislation to make Election Day a state holiday and has fought to make elections fairer and safer in Michigan. “As legislators, we have a duty to do everything in our power to safeguard the right to vote, and I’m looking forward to working with this group of talented people to make the changes we need.”
"Michigan's voters have very clearly declared that they want to increase access to voting," said Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit). "I am looking forward to working collaboratively to advance the freedom to vote and making sure everyone has access."
“No one should be pressured by their elected leaders to break the law and especially not the public servants who administer our elections," said Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia). I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to explicitly prohibit and penalize such abhorrent abuses of power.” 
“Election workers are our family members and neighbors in all our communities who volunteer their time to serve our democracy,” said Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit). “The work they do is critical to our democracy and we need to protect them so they can continue to serve us.”
“In an era of increased misinformation, we must do everything we can to protect the people of our state from falling for election conspiracies,” said Rep. Tyrone Carter D-Detroit). “The belief in these conspiracies has resulted in a number of threats and harassment toward our election workers. As a result of these threats, many experienced clerks across the country decided to leave their positions. This has to stop. I support legislation that will protect our election workers and minimize the spread of misinformation.” 
“I am committed to working alongside my colleagues to make lasting improvements to our elections,” said Rep. Jamie Churches (D-Wyandotte). “I know that we are ready to get to work serving on the House Committee on Elections. Ensuring that we can expand voter’s rights, protect democracy, and amplify the voices of voters across Michigan must remain a priority for legislators in our state.”
“Free and fair elections can’t happen without the workers and officials who run them. And democracy can’t happen without elections,” said Rep. Kara Hope (D-Holt). “So we owe it to these guardians of democracy to ensure they can do their work free of threats, intimidation, or worse. That’s what the legislation I introduced is meant to do.”
“I am proud of the work I’ve done as a member of the House elections committee and I look forward to continuing that work in the majority,” said Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth). “Safe and secure elections are the cornerstone of our democracy and I am happy to continue to work with Secretary Benson on reforms to protect the right to vote and ensure fair, transparent, and accessible elections.”
“It's time for us to pass legislation that protects election workers and voters in Michigan,” said Rep. Amos O’Neal (D-Saginaw). ”Let’s invest in keeping our election process secure, transparent and healthy. With new legislation, we can do just that. We can protect the democratic process and deter destructive behavior through more robust penalties — it is crucial for our election process to be safeguarded.”

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