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Jocelyn Benson rocks the OCDP house!


By Charles Gaba - Posted on 11 March 2009

Last night (Tuesday) saw a momentous milestone in the Oakland County Democratic Party's history: I actually made it to their monthly meeting on time for once! Change Happened!

Seriously, though, aside from the other various and sundry items on the agenda, the most interesting event of the evening IMHO was the special guest speaker, Prof. Jocelyn Benson, who is running for Michigan Secretary of State in 2010.

This is significant for a number of reasons: First, Prof. Benson has a hell of a resume. Rather than try to parrot it, I'll just give a summary from her official campaign website:

Benson is currently a full time Assistant Professor of Law at Wayne State University Law School, where she teaches Election Law. She is also an appointed member of the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Election Law. Being a member of the committee inspired her to create the Richard Austin Center on Election Law and Administration. The Austin Center, incorporated in October 2008, seeks to work with local election administrators to promote innovations and improve the election administration process in Michigan.

Prior to her appointment as a Professor, Benson served as a law clerk to the Honorable Damon J. Keith on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. From 2002-2004, she served as the Voting Rights Policy Coordinator of the Harvard Civil Rights Project, where she worked on the passage of the federal Help America Vote Act. In late 2009, Benson's book, Democracy and the State Secretary of State, will be published by Ashgate. The book highlights best practices of Secretaries from throughout the country and seeks to inform voters about how Secretaries of State from either side of the political spectrum can work to advance democracy and election reform.

Prof. Benson spoke passionately about many of the issues that all participants in the democratic (and Democratic) process should hold dear: Reliable voting equipment; random audits to ensure accuracy; same-day registration and no-reason absentee voting; transparency and fairness in the entire election process; and much more. In addition, she also spoke about some of the non-election-related areas of the Secretary of State's office, such as reducing the long lines at the SoS branch offices, increasing the efficiency of paperwork processing, and correcting one item which I found astonishing: Apparently, currently, you can't use a credit card to make a payment at any Michigan Secretary of State offices! In 2009! You can pay by credit card online, or at the kiosks, but if you actually walk up to the desk at a SoS branch office, you have to pay by check or cash at the moment. Astonishing.

In any event, after the official meeting, I had the opportunity to speak further with Prof. Benson, and found her to be very knowledgeable about all things election-related and raring to go on improving the system. She's met with and learned from numerous other SoS's around the nation, including Ohio SoS Jennifer Brunner, California SoS Debra Bowen, and Minnesota SoS Mark Ritchie (currently embroiled in the still-ongoing Al Franken/Norm Coleman U.S. Senate Recount Case).

In short, Prof. Benson is the Real Deal, and certainly appears to be a serious, credible and highly-qualified candidate for Michigan Secretary of State. I strongly suggest that you check out her website and consider giving her a hand, whether through volunteering or a financial donation.

On the web: http://www.votebenson.com

I thought Prof. Benson did a great job at the recent OCDP meeting, and she stated her case quite well. Thanks to the OCDP crew for providing us with this opportunity to hear her speak.

The questions from the audience were in-depth and complex; as one would hope, she addressed and answered each question with clarity and conviction. I was quite impressed, and look forward to hearing more from her in the weeks and months ahead.