secretary of state

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.

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.

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Another Michigan man who was denied a personalized license plate the state says could be considered “offensive to good taste and decency” is suing on free speech grounds.

The American Civil Liberties Union is already suing the Secretary of State over a similar case in federal court in Grand Rapids.

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This week Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley and Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry talked about the lawsuit filed against Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. The lawsuit challenges Johnson’s instruction that voters who show up on Election Day should be asked whether they are US citizens. Shockley and Lessenberry also talked about Governor Rick Snyder's trade mission to China.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Secretary of State being sued over citizenship question

"A coalition of unions, voters, county clerks and civil rights groups is suing Secretary of State Ruth Johnson in federal court. The lawsuit challenges Johnson’s instruction that voters who show up on Election Day should be asked whether they are US citizens. But no one can legally be denied a ballot for refusing to check the box. The lawsuit was filed yesterday in US District Court in Detroit. Johnson’s office would not comment specifically on the lawsuit. But she has said the question is simply meant to remind people that only U-S citizens can vote in elections," Rick Pluta reports.

Medicaid tax falls $130-million short of projections

"The state could lose up to $260-million in federal funding for Medicaid this year. That's because of lower-than-expected revenues from Michigan's new one-percent tax on health insurance claims, which started in January. The tax will bring in $130-million less than originally projected for the current fiscal year. That means Michigan will have less money to qualify for federal matching dollars," Jake Neher reports.

CAW extends contracts with GM and Chrysler

The AP reports the Canadian Auto workers union says it has agreed to extend its current contracts with General Motors and Chrysler. Negotiations on new deals continue,

The union had set a midnight strike deadline. But President Ken Lewenza said talks would go past the deadline if there was progress. Earlier Monday the C-A-W reached a 4 -year deal with Ford that freezes pay and cuts wages for new hires. The union wants the deal to be the template for contracts with G-M and Chrysler. A CAW spokeswoman wouldn't say how long the contracts will be extended.

Voting booth
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Update 4:39 p.m.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is being sued for ordering a citizenship question onto forms handed to voters at their local precincts. It asks people to check a box affirming their U.S. citizenship. But no one can legally be denied a ballot for refusing to check the box.
    
Jocelyn Benson directs the Michigan Center for Election Law, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. She said Secretary of State Johnson is acting outside the realm of her authority.

"And it's not going to prevent non-citizens from voting, but it is something that will create and has created some confusion in our elections process," said Benson.

The lawsuit was filed today in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Johnson's office would not comment specifically on the lawsuit. But she has said the question is simply meant to remind people that only U.S. citizens can vote in elections.

3:06 p.m.

Some county clerks are suing the state over boxes on voter forms that ask people whether they are citizens.

The lawsuit will say that Secretary of State Ruth Johnson does not have the authority on her own to put the boxes on election forms. A voter cannot be denied a ballot for refusing to check the box.

Earlier this year, Governor Rick Snyder vetoed a bill that would have required voter forms to include a citizenship question.

(we'll update this post - check back)

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Secretary of State will soon ask again for access to immigration records.

The intent is to find non-American citizens who may have “inadvertently” registered to vote in Michigan.

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Here's another reason to pay your parking tickets: Your driver's license could be blocked.

A Michigan law kicking in on May 16 says three unpaid parking tickets can prevent renewal of a license. The current threshold is six.

Local governments notify the secretary of state when someone has too many unpaid parking tickets, although some communities are more aggressive than others. Birmingham in suburban Detroit turns unpaid tickets over to a collection agency.

Opponents of Michigan’s emergency manager law, Public Act 4, say they’re concerned about the integrity of petitions they just handed over to the Secretary of State.

If enough petition signatures are certified (approximately 161,000--organizers say they've collected more than 220,000), the law would be suspended until a voter referendum in November.

Because it’s a politically-charged matter of numbers, organizers say they want to make sure those petitions are supervised and handled properly.

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The state Senate has approved some prospective changes in Michigan voting laws.

The measures would require training for people who register voters, and make people who pick up absentee ballots show a photo ID or sign an affidavit affirming their identity.

Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson called for some new election rules to discourage vote fraud.

“Michigan has a good election system, a very good election system, but we want to improve that even more,” said Ruth Johnson’s spokesman Fred Woodhams.

The measures have raised concerns with voter-rights advocates.

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Six unpaid tickets triggers sanctions at the Secretary of State's office.

Now that might change to three. From the Associated Press:

The state Legislature has approved a bill that would make it tougher and more expensive for motorists who pile up unpaid parking tickets to get their driver's licenses renewed.

The Senate passed a bill by a 27-11 vote Tuesday that would lower the number of unpaid tickets needed to prompt sanctions from the Secretary of State's office. The bill already has passed the House so it's on the way to Gov. Rick Snyder.

Motorists now are blocked from getting or renewing their driver's licenses if they have six or more unresolved parking violations. That number would drop to three unpaid parking tickets under the bill.

The AP reports in 2018, the law would expire and go back to six unpaid tickets needed for sanctions.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan Secretary of State’s office will not step in to oversee Tuesday’s mayoral primary in Flint.  Two candidates asked the state election office to oversee the primary.   They cited problems in recent elections involving absentee ballots, computer glitches and votes being left in ballot boxes. 

Fred Woodhams is with the Secretary of State’s office.   He says the past problems did not indicate a need for state oversight.  

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson says July 5 is the deadline to register to vote in Michigan primary elections Aug. 2.

Cities, townships and school districts are holding votes in August.

Voter registration can be done by mail, at county, city or township clerk's offices or by visiting any secretary of state branch office. The mail-in form is available on the Department of State's website at www.Michigan.gov/sos.

Residents can check their registration status on the Michigan Voter Information Center website at www.Michigan.gov/vote. That site also has information on voting by absentee ballot and the state's voter identification requirement, along with maps to polling place and sample ballots.

Those who wish to receive their absentee ballot by mail must submit their application by 2 p.m. July 30.

DETROIT (AP) - Michigan's secretary of state is seeking $976,000 from imprisoned ex-Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick for using re-election campaign funds to pay legal fees associated with a criminal case that saw him jailed in 2008.

A spokesman for Ruth Johnson says a civil complaint has been filed with her department. An administrative hearing is expected.

Kilpatrick was jailed after pleading guilty to misconduct and no contest to assault. The charges stemmed from a text-messaging sex scandal involving a former top aide.

The Bureau of Elections writes in the complaint that the charges arose from personal misconduct and that campaign funds shouldn't have been used for legal fees.

The Associated Press left messages Monday afternoon seeking comment from Kilpatrick lawyer James Thomas.

A mainframe computer system problem that interrupted business at Michigan Secretary of State offices was fixed.

Now the Secretary of State offices will hold extended hours to sort through a backlog.

From the Associated Press:

Secretary of state branches across Michigan are extending their hours through Monday after a computer system problem interrupted transactions over the past several days.

State officials say it will take time to address the backlog created by the outage, which suspended operations for parts of this past Monday and Wednesday and nearly all of Thursday.

As a result, branch offices will stay open later on Friday, Saturday and Monday.

The secretary of state's office also says late fees will be waived for affected customers coming into branches through the end of business on May 27.

The office has alerted law enforcement that some customers were unable to renew their vehicle tabs or driver's licenses during the computer outage.

The Michigan Department of Management, Budget and Technology says the computer outage affecting Secretary of State branch offices will not be fixed before the close of business today.

A spokesman says technicians will work through the night, if necessary, to fix the problems.

The shutdown of a mainframe computer also prevents State Police troopers from conducting license and vehicle checks, but not from issuing tickets.

rick4mi.com

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson delivered what she says was the first-ever "State of the Secretary of State" speech in Lansing.

It's a speech Johnson says she plans to deliver the speech every year she is in office, "because I think there’s so much information and so many good things that are happening and I want people to know where we’re at, and where we’re going," said Johnson, "so you can judge – are we doing a good job or not?"

In the speech, Johnson said she is cutting costs in the Department of State.