‘Proud’ to defend democracy: Michigan SOS preparing for attempts to interrupt 2022 election process

State SOS Jocelyn Benson testifies in hearing probing Jan. 6 insurrection, fallout

FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2020, file photo, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File) (Paul Sancya, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Efforts to undermine the 2020 presidential election in the United States will likely impact how elections are run and overseen for years to come -- but perhaps the most significant impact is on everyday citizens and how they view and engage with the political process.

That theory is partly proven true after thousands of people stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an effort to disrupt the certification of the votes declaring Joe Biden as the nation’s next president. A House committee exploring the insurrection, which left five people dead, says rioters were incited by ex-President Donald Trump and his false rhetoric about the election being “stolen” from him. No evidence of widespread fraud was found in connection with the election.

Without evidence of fraud, Trump and his supporters still coordinated attempts to overturn election results, including during election certification processes and in the court systems. No such attempts were successful, but election officials nationwide have argued that the efforts are not only concerning, they also threaten the democratic process.

As states enter the midterm elections season, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says that officials are looking out for and preparing for more efforts to disrupt the regular election process.

In an interview with Local 4 News on Wednesday, Benson said that the effort to challenge the certification of 2020 election results and efficient tabulation was widespread across the U.S., and wasn’t just happening in Michigan. The secretary of state says that it’s important to draw the connection between the efforts so that “if and when this is ever attempted again, we’re ready and can ensure that it is, again, unsuccessful.”

“The good news is that we have already survived this significant coordinated effort to undermine our democracy in 2020, and that has made all of us -- all of our clerks, Democrats, Republicans, Independents -- ready for whatever comes our way this year and beyond, through that coordination but also through the experience that we endured and what we learned from it,” Benson said.

So far, there have already been efforts to undermine the upcoming 2022 elections, according to Benson. She says that while there has been a ramped up effort to recruit election workers, which is usually a “great thing,” those workers are being fed with misinformation about Michigan elections, “which is troubling.” Officials worry that misinformation could “potentially weaponize individuals to show up on election day and cause confusion, chaos or interfere with the election process,” Benson said.

Such misinformation even led to armed protesters surrounding Benson’s Detroit home, where many yelled “stop the steal” and incorrectly argued that Trump won the election -- which was not true. The Michigan secretary of state even testified about the protest, which she called scary for herself and her family, during the Jan. 6 committee hearing on June 21.

Related: ‘Nowhere I feel safe’: Election officials recount threats

Still, Benson says she is committed to carrying out her work as secretary of state, which she defines as defending the democratic process and ensuring each Michigander’s vote is counted.

“Regardless of how someone votes or who they vote for -- Republican, Democrat, Independent -- their vote counts and their voice needs to be heard, and I’m proud to stand in defense of our process, of our democracy, because that’s who we are as Americans,” Benson said. “Sometimes being a democracy requires us to stand on the front lines like that and face down those challenges in order to survive and ensure democracy prevails.”

Watch our entire June 22 interview with Benson below.

We're sitting down with Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson amid the January 6 hearings, in which Michigan played a major role on Tuesday, June 21. Here's what she had to say about her testimony in the hearing.

More: Jan. 6 panel in possession of new Trump documentary footage


About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.