Secretary of State candidate Jocelyn Benson visits CMU, discusses voting rights

Democratic candidate for Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks to a small group of students and community members on April 4 in the Charles V. Park Library Auditorium.

Democratic candidate for Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson spoke and answered questions on April 4 in the Charles V. Park Library Auditorium.

Benson spoke about her goals to increase voter turnout by making voting easier, increase transparency in politics by requiring politicians to disclose financial information and guarantee service in “30-minutes or less” to citizens going to Secretary of State offices.

Benson was hosted by the College Democrats at Central Michigan University and used the majority of the event to answer questions from the crowd of about 15 students and community members.

Benson said she was in support of using automatic voter registration to help voters get to the polls.

“I think we should be doing everything we can to embrace new voters into the process and maintain the accuracy of our voter rolls,” Benson said. 

Benson spoke about increasing voter turnout by modernizing voter registration methods by making them easier to access and described the current process as “antiquated.”

Benson also spoke about how there are many issues making voting difficult for students across the state that need to be alleviated. Michigan is one of few states that require a reason to be stated in order to obtain an absentee ballot. Voters also need to register in person or vote in person at least once to get an absentee ballot, Benson said. 

Along with working to make it easier to obtain absentee ballots, Benson said that work would need to be done on a local level in order to ensure that polling places could be easily accessible to students even if they are far from campus.

Trenton sophomore Dustin Kane asked Benson to talk about her “30-minutes or less” guarantee.

“I want to be able to say that we set this standard and we met it,” Benson said. “We know there’s ways to do it. Parts of the state have it figured it out, but not all.”

To decrease wait times, some processes could be moved online, appointments could be made on the website and staff could be trained, Benson said. She also mentioned a possible app that could let users know how long the current wait is at several of the nearest Secretary of State offices so wait times can be avoided entirely. 

Kane went to the event because one of his political science professors told him he might be interested. 

“I thought it was really interesting to hear her perspective on it, because she’s  obviously done a lot of research on it,” Kane said. “It was interesting to see that she had the facts to back it up and I think it’d be a really good idea for the apps to be implemented into a system like that.”

Kane also said that he was really interested in what Benson had to say about making voting easier for students because he had issues getting an absentee ballot last year. 

Canton sophomore Ethan Petzold, president of College Democrats at CMU, was glad that Benson could talk to students. 

“I think it’s really important that we have candidates for all our offices come here and talk at CMU,” Petzold said. “There’s too many offices that don’t get a lot of press, like the Secretary of State, but it’s still important that students get the opportunity to meet them and talk to them.”