91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Secretary of State Benson testifies on new election laws in front of state Senate committee

Jocelyn Benson
Benson for Secretary of State

Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson was grilled by a Senate Elections committee on Wednesday. Republican lawmakers questioned Benson about the implementation of a new independent redistricting commission.

The commission was authorized after voters passed a ballot measure last November. It will redraw the state’s political district lines. The application process is now open.

Senator Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) is concerned about how the commission members will be selected. It will be random but also weighted for geographic and demographic representation.

“I don’t understand how we can be random and weighted at the same time. This is just as dumb as the previous laws that said you can’t consider race, but you have to make sure race is considered,” he says.         

The selection process will be done by an outside firm. Bensons says its methods will be transparent, but she says she wants a wide range of representation.

Another new law automatically registers people to vote when they apply for, update, or renew their driver’s license, unless they choose to opt out.

Senator Ruth Johnson (R-Holly) says she’s concerned people will get registered who don’t mean to, especially people who are not U.S. citizens. She says if they register and vote it would be a crime and they could be deported.   

“I think it is so important to make sure that people that do not want to register don’t get registered, it has an incredibly horrible impact,” says Johnson.

Benson says she agrees with Johnson.

She also presented data showing that more people are voting because of these new election laws.

One of the laws implemented after a ballot initiative was passed lets people register to vote up to and on Election Day. Benson says during the first election after the law was implemented, half of the people who utilized late registration were under the age of 20.

“So what this shows us already is that young voters in particular are taking advantage of this. New voters are embracing this opportunity,” says Benson.

Benson also says the number of people who vote absentee will likely double in upcoming elections. That’s because of another new law that allows for no reason absentee voting.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
Related Content