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From our State Capitol in Lansing to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, WKAR is committed to explaining how the actions of lawmakers are affecting Michiganders. Political and government reporter Abigail Censky leads this section. There are also stories from Capitol correspondents Cheyna Roth, Rick Pluta and the Associated Press. As the 2020 presidential race begins, look here for reports on the role Michigan will play in electing or re-electing the president.

Secretary Of State Jocelyn Benson Supports Online Registration But Paper Ballots

Jocelyn Benson, Michigan's first Democratic secretary of state in more than 20 years gives her inaugural remarks.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said she’s keeping an eye on problems in the early presidential primary and caucus states as her office makes plans for 2020.

Absentee ballots are already being cast for the March presidential primary. There’s congressional and legislative primaries in August, followed by the general election in the fall. 

Michigan is considered pivotal in the presidential race, and Benson said that’s one more reason to ensure the votes are counted efficiently and accurately.  

“Michigan will have a national spotlight on us, particularly in November, and we’re trying to prepare everyone now for the expectation that we’re going to be thorough and we’re going to ensure the integrity of the process first and foremost,” she said. 

Benson said she favors online voter registration. But she said votes should be cast using only paper ballots. She said that would help avoid the problems that plagued the Iowa caucuses, where there were problems counting votes because of a phone app. 

“Ultimately, the work of an election administrator is to marry those security requirements that paper ballots really solidify with technological advancements, and that’s why we implemented online voter registration with paper ballots for the voting process,” she said.

Benson said she wants local elections officials to be able to process absentee ballots in advance, but still wait until election night to actually count them. But she said clerks can do some early processing so absentee ballots are ready to be counted once the polls close. She said that will make a difference as more voters use Michigan’s no-reason absentee ballots to vote early.

No-reason absentee voting means that some ballots for the March presidential primary have already been dropped off or mailed in.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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