Ruth Johnson criticizes hypocrisy of Secretary of State Benson

Branch offices closed until May 14; May 5 elections still on

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Ruth Johnson on Friday criticized Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson for closing all her branch offices until May 14 while opposing consolidating the May election with the statewide primary in August.

Residents with a scheduled secretary of state office appointment between April 23 and May 13 are being sent emails telling them their appointment has been canceled due to the danger of transmission of COVID-19.

“It is extremely hypocritical of the secretary of state to close all her branch offices, including one-on-one appointments, until at until at least May 14 while forcing local clerks in 200 jurisdictions to hold in-person elections on May 5,” said Johnson, R-Holly. “The coronavirus is highly contagious, and Secretary Benson refusing to combine the May election with a regular election two months later needlessly puts election workers and voters at risk.

“With the governor’s stay-at-home order extension, the predictions that Michigan cases will peak on or near the May 5 election date and now the secretary of state closing her offices during this time, it’s common sense that we should not be conducting elections that day. We’re already having an election in August throughout the state. Why not move the May questions to that ballot to keep people safe while still preserving their right to vote on important issues?”

On Thursday, Johnson sent Benson a letter urging her to withdraw her opposition to consolidating the May 5 elections onto the August ballot. In March, Johnson sent the governor two letters encouraging her to consider postponing the May ballot questions until August due to the COVID-19 state of emergency.

“Local clerks are having trouble finding election workers and many of them are senior citizens, who are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus,” Johnson said. “Both the election workers working the polls that are open and those processing and tabulating absentee ballots are at risk. Also, they can’t find personal protective equipment, which right now should be prioritized for health care workers and first responders. I am deeply concerned about the impact on the health and safety of Michigan citizens if elections are held in May during this pandemic.

“Sixteen other states have delayed their elections while preserving voters’ rights. I once again call on Gov. Whitmer and Secretary Benson to follow those examples by putting the welfare of the people first, postponing and combining the May election date and moving all the May ballot issues to the August primary.”

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