ruth johnson

Ruth Johnson, Michigan Secretary of State
Ruth Johnson for Michigan

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Gov. Rick Snyder both say the state should allow every voter who does not want to wait until Election Day to cast an absentee ballot. So does Johnson’s Democratic opponent in the November election.

Michigan is in the minority of states that does not currently allow no-reason absentee voting. Twenty-seven other states and Washington D.C. already allow it.

So what is getting in the way of Michigan joining that list?

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Democratic challenger Godfrey Dillard seem to agree that Michigan motorists dread dealing with the state's motor vehicle registration and driver's license system.

In her campaign for another four years, Johnson talks about how hard she worked to improve service at Department of State branch offices even as her budget shrank. And she talks about expanding her pilot programs to cut the wait time.

Scott Beale / Flickr

The "Designated Survivor" is the person from the President’s Cabinet who sits out the big, official political gatherings – like the State of the Union speech, or a Presidential Inauguration.

That survivor would be there if something unthinkable happens. The government would still go on. Someone would be in charge.

So that got us thinking about Michigan: What does Michigan do if a catastrophe wipes out the top echelons of state government?

Does Michigan have a plan?

Well, yes! It’s the “Emergency Interim Executive Succession Act.” Public Act 202 of 1959 reads:

“If the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, the elected Secretary of State, the elected Attorney General, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Speaker of the House of representatives are not able or are unavailable to exercise the powers and discharge the duties of the governor because of a disaster, the available emergency interim successor highest in order of succession shall exercise the powers and discharge the duties of the office of governor.”

In the case of the unthinkable – whether it’s zombies, or an attack on the state - if the entire line of succession is wiped out or incapacitated, there is still a plan for someone to be in charge.

People voting
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson says she's asked the state Attorney General's office to investigate 10 people who aren't U.S. citizens but have voted in past Michigan elections.

MLive reports the letter to Bill Schuette calls for an "investigation, and if appropriate, prosecution."

The Secretary of State's office says the people are from Kent, Macomb, Oakland, Roscommon and Wayne counties. Names of those involved haven't been released, but Johnson's office says they voted in presidential and gubernatorial elections in the past decade.

Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout says they received the letter from Johnson and the referrals are under review.

The 10 people area some of 600 people who earlier were verified as not being U.S. citizens by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Michigan Secretary of State, Ruth Johnson.
MI SOS

Republicans in Lansing are split over whether people who bankroll so-called “issue ads” should be allowed to remain anonymous.

Issue ads attack or support politicians or causes without using what are called “magic words" like “vote for” or "oppose." Unlike campaign ads, the money behind issue ads can be anonymous.

But, late last week, Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson proposed new rules that would require disclosure of issue-ad donations.

Johnson said, too often, issue ads are just thinly disguised political ads, and people should know who is paying for them.

But, many Republicans disagree. In fact, within hours of Johnson's proposal, the GOP-led Senate acted quickly to amend a campaign finance bill that would make Johnson's new rules illegal.

Rich Robinson, Executive Director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, and  Jonathan Oosting, Capitol reporter for MLive.com, joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Since our nation was founded, we’ve believed strongly that the essence of democracy lies in the public’s right to know. That’s the reason behind the words in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or of the right of the people peacefully to assemble.”

But there are forces in the Michigan legislature determined to prevent you from knowing certain things. Knowing, for example, the names of the rich people and special interests who give money to try to influence our votes, and how much they give.

First, a little background. Nearly four years ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled, essentially, that there could be no limits on how much corporations or special interests contributed to political campaigns. That came in a decision usually referred to as Citizens United.

But it is important to remember that a majority of the justices also said the people had a right to full disclosure, to know who was trying to influence our elections. Many states do, in fact, require this. But not Michigan, which when it comes to honesty and transparency in campaign financing, ranks with the worst.

This week we saw yet another split in the Republican Party. But this intra-party fight had little to do with the usual Tea Party v. Establishment narrative. Instead, the imbroglio was over “issue ads.” Or, to be even more specific: disclosure of who is paying for issue ads.

Issue ads can sound and look an awful lot like campaign ads but they don’t directly or explicitly endorse a candidate by saying “vote for Candidate X” or “oppose Candidate Y.” It’s these magic little words – “vote,” “elect,” “support,” – that make a political ad a political ad.

But issue ads can say Candidate X did a horrible thing or Candidate Y is an amazing person. Take for example this ad from the 2010 Republican Gubernatorial Primary: “Raising taxes in this economy is crazy. But that’s what Congressman Pete Hoesktra wants to do… Call Congressman Hoesktra and tell him raising taxes is crazy.” Language like that makes it an issue ad. It says “call Congressman Hoekstra” but it doesn’t specifically say how to vote.

Michigan's Secretary of State is proposing an end to secretly funded political ads.

Republican Ruth Johnson proposed a new rule today to require sponsors of so-called "issue ads" to file reports with the state and meet current campaign finance requirements. Currently, ads only urging voters to support or oppose a specific candidate are subject to disclosure requirements. Issue ads define a candidate's suitability for office without directly urging a "yes" or a "no" vote, and they're exempt from disclosure requirements. Chris Gautz, Capitol Correspondent for Crain's Detroit Business, joined us today.

rick4mi.com

When it comes to trying to wiggle out of paying for auto insurance, the creativity of some Michigan drivers seems to know no bounds.

But to all of those drivers who think they're getting away with auto insurance fraud, the Michigan Secretary of State has a warning: "We're on to you."

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is announcing the creation of a task force to fight fraud in auto insurance all across Michigan.

Secretary of State Johnson joined us today from Lansing.

Listen to the interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan is launching a campaign to crackdown on auto insurance fraud.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson says her office will be working with the Michigan State Police, local prosecutors and the insurance industry to catch people selling and using phony auto insurance policies.

She says a one day snap shot of more than 3 thousand auto registration renewals using paper insurance certificates found 16% were using phony auto insurance.

Johnson says many of the scams are quite sophisticated.

Michigan Secretary of State, Ruth Johnson.
MI SOS

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson says she supports changing the state's current winner-take-all system in presidential elections.

Johnson said Friday during a taping of WKAR-TV's "Off The Record" program that she supports a hybrid of the current system and one that would divide the state's electoral votes proportionally.

State to issue licenses to eligible undocumented immigrants

Feb 18, 2013
Secretary of State

Beginning Tuesday, certain undocumented immigrants living in Michigan will be able to get driver's licenses and state IDs.

Earlier this month, Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson reversed her position and said immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and are eligible for temporary federal work permits can get licenses.

Johnson changed her position after the Obama administration clarified that individuals eligible for the permits, called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, can obtain licenses.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Thousands of children of undocumented immigrants in Michigan are now eligible for a driver’s license or official state ID.

Michigan Secretary of State, Ruth Johnson.
MI SOS

No changes are planned right now to a policy that denies Michigan driver’s licenses to immigrants brought to the U.S. as young children by parents who entered illegally.

That’s despite a federal rules change that says they are in the country legally.

Michigan is one of a handful of states that continues to deny driver’s licenses to these young immigrants.

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s office said the state’s policy is under review.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson over her refusal to provide driver’s licenses to some young immigrants.

Last summer, President Obama unveiled the so-called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. It gives undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children authorization to live and work here legally for a two-year period. There are an estimated 15,000 DACA-eligible young people in Michigan.

Michigan Sheriffs' Association

The ACLU of Michigan is suing Secretary of State Ruth Johnson over her decision to deny driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants with work permits granted under a new federal-deferred action plan.

The suit was brought on behalf of three young immigrants and One Michigan, a youth-led advocacy group.

There are approximately 15,000 young people in Michigan who are eligible for the federal program.

Ruth Johnson has faced criticism over the citizenship question on Michigan ballots this year.
user jdurham / MorgueFile.com

Michigan Radio has received word that in at least one polling location voters encountered the controversial citizenship checkbox on ballot applications.

Oakland County resident Spencer Howell said that he was surprised to see the question when he went to cast his vote at Holly High School.

Howell knew of the controversy surrounding the checkbox and had a difficult time deciding whether or not to answer the question.

He decided to answer, but still thinks the question is inappropriate.

Michigan Secretary of State, Ruth Johnson.
MI SOS

It is perhaps the busiest day of the year for Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. Michigan polling locations will be open until 8 p.m. tonight.  And, it will likely be some time before we have the final calls in many of the races.  Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Ruth Johnson about the long lines at the polls, frustration over the voter verification check box, and when we should all expect to hear some results.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

No citizenship box on ballot

"Secretary of State Ruth Johnson says there will be no citizenship box for voters to check on ballot applications this November. Johnson says the election is getting close, so she won’t challenge a federal judge’s ruling that the citizenship question is unconstitutional. But she says there could be further legal action after the election. Johnson says she also intends to press the federal government for naturalization records to help clear voter rolls of non-citizens. She ordered the check box even after Governor Rick Snyder vetoed a bill to require it. No one could be denied a ballot for refusing to check the box, but Johnson says it's useful to remind people that only U.S. citizens can vote," Rick Pluta reports.

DHS says foster care is getting better in Michigan

"Child welfare officials say Michigan’s foster care system is getting better. Steve Yager is the director of Children’s Services for the state Department of Human Services. He told a legislative committee the state is doing a much better job of recruiting and keeping foster parents. Yager also says child welfare workers have more manageable caseloads. The state has been working to overhaul its child welfare system since 2008, after the group Children’s Rights sued the state over problems in the system," Steve Carmody reports.

Michigan foreclosure rate at a five year low

"Michigan’s home foreclosure rate could soon reach a milestone. A few years ago the state's foreclosure rate was near the top of the 50 state list. But Daren Bloomquist with Realty Trac says the latest data shows Michigan is poised to drop out of the top 10 possibly by the end of the year. He says Michigan’s home foreclosure rate is near a five year low," Steve Carmody reports.

Update 4:19 p.m.

There will be no citizenship checkbox on ballot applications for Michigan voters this November.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said she won’t challenge a federal judge’s ruling that the citizenship question is unconstitutional because the election is getting so close.

She did say there could be further legal action after the election.

Johnson says she also intends to press the federal government for naturalization records that would help her clear voter rolls of non-citizens.

Three days ago, U.S. District Judge Paul Borman ruled that Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson had to stop asking voters to check a box reaffirming they are a U.S. citizen before casting a ballot at their polling place during next month’s election.

His ruling was about as surprising as snow in January, and I have to confess that I have a hard time understanding where the secretary of state is coming from. This was something the governor vetoed and her own legal staff told her to keep off absentee ballots.

Ruth Johnson has faced criticism over the citizenship question on Michigan ballots this year.
user jdurham / MorgueFile.com

DETROIT (AP) - A judge has told Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to remove citizenship check-off boxes from November ballot applications.

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman made the ruling Friday during a hearing in Detroit. A written decision is expected Tuesday.

Borman told Johnson the boxes that ask Michigan voters to confirm their U.S. citizenship slows the voting process, is confusing and is a burden on the right to vote.

Michigan Secretary of State in court today over citizenship checkbox

"Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson will be in federal court today to defend a citizenship checkbox she ordered onto November ballot applications. Election officials would ask voters to confirm their U.S. citizenship, but would not deny them a ballot if they decline to answer. A number of county clerks say it’ll cause confusion and could scare off eligible voters. Johnson says the citizenship question will help cut down on voter fraud and the number of non-citizens who receive ballots," Jake Neher reports.

Ambassador bridge owners say new bridge not economically feasible

"Opponents of a new bridge between the U.S. and Canada say Michigan would lose about $325 million in taxes if the project goes ahead. The owners of the Ambassador bridge commissioned a study they say shows there's no need for a new bridge. Canada would pay for construction of the bridge and recoup its investment from future tolls," Rina Miller reports.

Pilot program to keep kids at home, not in foster care

"The state of Michigan is going to try a new approach to keep at-risk children out of the state’s foster care system. A federal waiver will allow the state to use grant dollars to start a pilot program that will try to keep children under five years old with their families rather than place them in foster homes. Steve Yager is the director of the Department of Human Services’ Children Services Administration. He says they want to avoid putting very young children through the ‘trauma’ of  being placed in foster homes. The pilot program will start next year in Kalamazoo, Muskegon and Macomb counties. There are currently 13,000 children in Michigan’s foster care system," Steve Carmody reports.

Michigan Secretary of State, Ruth Johnson.
MI SOS

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson will be in federal court Friday to defend a citizenship checkbox she ordered on November ballot applications.

Election officials would ask voters to confirm their U.S. citizenship, but would not deny them a ballot if they decline to answer.

A number of county clerks say it’ll cause confusion and could scare off eligible voters.

Andrew Nickelhoff, an attorney for the coalition against the checkbox, questions its legitimacy.  

“We know from experience from the August primary and from information we’ve received afterward that many voters don’t think it’s appropriate, and many clerks who are administering these elections don’t think it’s appropriate,” he said.

The Secretary of State had filed a motion asking to have her election director speak on her behalf during the hearing.

The judge denied the request today, saying she had to be present in the courtroom.

Johnson says the citizenship question will help cut down on voter fraud and the number of non-citizens who receive ballots.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has been ordered to court as critics try to stop the use of a citizen check-off box on the November 6th ballot.

Detroit federal Judge Paul Borman has set a hearing for Friday. A coalition of civil rights groups and labor unions is asking Borman to issue an injunction.

A hearing on the ACLU's lawsuit over Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson's requirement to have a citizenship checkbox on all ballots is expected within the next week. Several county clerks around the state are refusing to follow through with the requirement. Detroit election workers were instructed to black out the box.

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson recently broke down how she came up with her numbers of illegal non-citizen voters on our show "Stateside with Cynthia Canty." She estimated that as many as 4,000 non-citizens are on state voter rolls. The AP reports that Johnson's figures have not been verified.

Michigan Secretary of State, Ruth Johnson.
MI SOS

A mobile Secretary of State office is stopping at 5 Southeast Michigan colleges and universities this week.

It’s part of an ongoing effort by Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to make sure voters are registered for upcoming elections.

On today's show we talk with Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton updates on CAW negotiations. We talk with University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman about her upcoming trip to Brazil. We get an update on Michigan wines and the Detroit Film Festival. We talk with Rick Devos about ArtPrize. We visit Ypsilanti and tour "Pianos around Town.

League of Women Voters

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is pushing for a citizenship verification box on the application for the November ballot. She says there could be an estimated 4,000 non-citizens registered to vote in Michigan. 

A lawsuit has been brought to block the question from the ballot and some county clerks are refusing to put the citizenship question to voters.

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