LANSING, MICH. - Democratic attorney Jocelyn Benson is to announce Tuesday she will make her second bid for secretary of state in 2018, promising shorter wait times in branch offices and polling places and improved public disclosure of the money surrounding politicians and lobbyists.
Benson, the former dean of the Wayne State University Law School, told the Free Press Monday she would set as a goal a "30-minute guarantee" to send Michigan residents the message that "their time is valued and respected."
“No one, no matter where they reside, should wait more than 30 minutes to renew their driver license, register their vehicle or cast a ballot," she said.
Benson, of Detroit, was the Democratic candidate for secretary of state in 2010, when she was defeated by Republican Ruth Johnson, 51% to 45%, in the race to succeed Republican Terri Lynn Land, who had to leave office because of term limits.
Now, Johnson is term-limited. Three Republicans — Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot, MSU assistant professor Joseph Guzman, and Grosse Pointe Farms certified public accountant Mary Treder Lang — are seeking the Republican nomination.
Benson, who left Wayne State in 2016 to become CEO and executive director of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, is the first to seek the Democratic nomination, which will be decided by delegates at a state convention. She has announcement events planned Tuesday in Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids.
Fred Woodhams, a spokesman for Johnson, said the agency doesn't have statistics on average branch office wait times because there are too many variables depending on the branch location and the time of the month. He said Johnson has taken many steps to shorten wait times, including promoting the use of online services.
Though waits to vote are uncommon in most Michigan communities, long lines to vote were reported at some Detroit precincts in the November 2016 election.
Benson said other priorities of hers — most of which will require legislative action — include improved election security, personal financial disclosures for elected officials, instant disclosure of all political and lobbying money and public disclosure of who is paying for all election-related advertising.
She also pledged not to increase fees for secretary of state services while improving the agency's technology.
"As dean of Wayne State Law School, I learned how to do more with less," said Benson, who cited public-private partnerships as one way she would explore to improve services without raising fees.
Benson, a graduate of Harvard Law School, wrote a book about the role of the secretary of state, published by Routledge in 2010. She is a marathon runner, a founder of Military Spouses of Michigan and a board member of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Benson and her husband, Ryan Friedrichs, who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, have a 16-month-old son, Aiden.
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