Yesterday, our SoS Ruth Johnson streamed a “state of the Secretary of State” conference. Her release says:
Today in the first ever State of the Secretary of State address we provided you, the taxpayers of Michigan, with an update on the challenges and progress our office has made in our first 100 days in office. My team spent nearly three and a half months evaluating nearly every aspect of the Department of State operations to determine what practices were effective, what could be improved, and where costs could be cut. The following is a summary of my address. Additionally, you can view our press release on my office website at http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,1607,7-127–254520–,00.html.
SoS Johnson is already embarking on cost savings and efficiencies over and above what Terri Lynn Land had implemented as well. Part of the message is troubling however. Particularly the numbers from 2008:
According to a 2008 report by the nonpartisan Pew Center on the states, Michigan had an impossible 102.54 percent of eligible voters registered to vote in this state. We have been working diligently to clean our voter rolls and change the laws to keep them that way. We’re also working to ensure that all of our votes are able to be recounted and that election workers are well-trained through a new comprehensive training program. Finally, I announced an upcoming legislative package that will put more teeth into our election laws to go after those who violate our campaign finance requirements. Candidates who don’t follow the rules and fake political parties will not be tolerated!
Within weeks of taking office, I agreed to cut $2.1 millions dollars from our general fund allocation, which accounts for a nearly 20-percent reduction. We’re listening to our staff and customers to find creative and common sense ways to cut costs. For example, we have now standardized our ballots so that absentee and in-person ballots are the same. Instituting this change in just one county in one election saved them $160,000. We are consolidating administrative office space, a savings of $150,000 annually. Additionally, we are also using up every piece of old stationery and envelopes with my predecessor’s name on them at a savings of nearly $50,000.
Evaluating Our Services
To evaluate our services, we created a “Secret Shopper” program in which volunteers from all walks of life visited more than 80 branch offices statewide – anonymously – and reported on what they found. We’re already using these results to evaluate our offices and to determine best practices. We’re developing ways to cut down on long wait times in our busiest branches by expanding our online services, developing a check sheet to ensure you have all the documents you need when you come to the office, and streamlining the process we use to renew vehicle tabs.
I am looking forward to more announcements from Johnson’s office, transparency of operations, and continued news about protecting our vote.