Advance Notice: Briefs

Benson testifies to Congress, kicks off bipartisan voting rights tour

By: - May 9, 2019 12:30 pm

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia, Marian Robinson, join Rep. John Lewis, and former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush during a walk across Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” march from Selma to Montgomery, in Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7, 2015 | Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is joining with Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill on a bipartisan, three-day voting rights tour that starts Thursday in his state.

That comes after Benson testified Wednesday on election security to the U.S. Committee on House Administration.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson | Ken Coleman

Merrill, a Republican, and Benson, a Democrat, are hosting the event that 18 other secretaries of state from across the nation are scheduled to attend. The Advance first reported in April that the tour was in the works. In total, eight Democrats and 12 Republicans will learn the history of the voting rights movement and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“This is a unique opportunity to bring a nationwide group of state chief election officers together to learn about both our sobering history and promising future here in Alabama and, by extension, the country,” Merrill said in a statement.

The tour features key stops for the voting rights movement at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery. Officials will cross the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

“Together, this group of leaders is responsible for administering elections in 20 states across the country,” Benson said. “I hope this nonpartisan tour inspires us to come together while we learn about the hard-won struggle for voting rights that continues to impact our work in elections every day.”

John Merrill

The National Association of Secretaries of State provided logistical and organizational support for this history tour in conjunction with the Alabama and Michigan departments of State. The Center for Secure and Modern Elections, Southern Poverty Law Center, Ford Foundation and Democracy Fund provided funding. Benson has been a member of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s board of directors.

In her Capitol Hill testimony, Benson said the federal government is critical for election security.  

“That role best manifests in three forms: resources, setting standards and establishing protections and setting a cooperative and bipartisan tone,” she said.

She talked about securing elections in Michigan, including voter registration and data, the process of voting and the transmission of election results. Benson also testified about the importance of upgrading voting technology, auditing election results, improving reporting of election night results, preparing for emergencies and ensuring accurate information sharing with the public.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 23-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on C-SPAN, MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQ people, the state budget, the economy and more. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 100 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive.