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Worried About Our Democracy? Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson Has the 3 Things You Can Do About It

Worried About Our Democracy? Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson Has the 3 Things You Can Do About It

By Jocelyn Benson
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It’s only February and it’s already shaping up to be a noisy election year. 

Many Americans are worried for our democracy, and for good reason. Violent rhetoric, calls for civil war, and the demonization of political opponents is on the rise as many voters’ faith in the well-proven security and accuracy of our elections plummets. But you do not have to stand idly by. You have tremendous power as a voter and as an American. And with all its challenges, 2024 is a great opportunity to prove we as a nation—no matter where we live or what political party we belong to—are committed to protecting and preserving American democracy.My parents, both special education teachers, taught me at a young age that everyone needs to have a seat at the table and equal access to opportunity in our country if our educational system and our economy are going to function and flourish. And they taught me that we all have a responsibility and a role to play in making that a reality.

I started my career as a civil rights worker with the Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama, investigating hate groups and hate crimes throughout the country. Living there and spending time in Selma, Alabama made clear to me that our best chance for everyone to have an equal shot to succeed in our country begins and ends with equal access to the vote.

It was in Selma where, in March 1965, John Lewis led a march to raise awareness about the violence Black Americans were facing when attempting to vote or register to vote. They were less than one mile into their trek when a sea of Alabama State Troopers approached, armed with Billy clubs and tear gas, determined to stop them.

I left Alabama and moved to Michigan instilled with a deep sense of responsibility and purpose to continue the work of those foot soldiers who worked and marched and bled in Selma to ensure the one person one vote promise in our constitution is a reality for all.

As Michigan’s Secretary of State, I’m now the chief election officer for the 10th largest state in the country. In 2020 I found myself in the middle of an unprecedented effort to undo the accurate results of a presidential election. I stood up to Donald Trump when he lobbed false accusations my way. I battled a nationally coordinated plan to interfere with the counting of valid votes and illegally block the certification of accurate election results that escalated into tragedy at our US Capitol on January 6, 2021. I sheltered in my home protecting my child while people with guns outside my front door shouted into bull horns that I should be tried for treason because of lies they’d been fed about our elections. 

Throughout all of that I’ve found that in our darkest moments there always exists a path forward. And the light to find our path forward can be found within us.

This election cycle will be fraught with mudslinging and misinformation, and many more attempts to discourage us from participating or even believing in our own voices and in the power of our votes. It will be up to all of us—we, the people—to rise above the noise and work together to ensure the promise of our American democracy survives and thrives.

Here are three key things you can do directly to ensure democracy prevails in 2024:

Know the rules for voting in your state—and help others know them, too.

Elections are run at the state level. That means each state determines its own rules on how and when you can register to vote to when and where you can cast your ballot. Become familiar now with the rules in your home state ( is a great resource). And remember, your local election officials are your go-to source for all election needs. Find yours here and get in touch with them directly if you have questions.

Want to serve, literally, on the front lines of our democracy? Sign up to work at a voting location in your community! Being a poll worker gives you a unique chance to help your neighbors vote and ensure safe access to the ballot box for everyone. Visit Power to the Polls to find out how to sign up to help in your area.

Call out lies about our elections when you see them and help us rise above the noise. 

There are adversaries to democracy out there who want to divide and deceive all of us with lies and disinformation about our voting rules, election security, and the valid results of our elections. We can’t let them win. No matter where we live or who we plan to vote for, it’s on all of us to rise above the noise and speak the truth to our friends and neighbors. Look skeptically at any images, videos and other things that could be generated with artificial intelligence. This includes robocalls, which are increasingly used as a tool to spread false election information, like the call New Hampshire voters received just before their primary election purporting to be President Biden telling citizens not to vote.

Rely on trusted sources, like official local government and election officials’ websites, for your election information and seek out multiple sources for news—including voices who will challenge your beliefs rather than reinforce them. There are multiple websites that effectively debunk false and misleading statements, images, and videos from across the political spectrum. One of the most respected is from The Annenberg Public Policy Center. Other reliable sites include PolitiFact and RumorGuard.

And when you find misinformation, don’t share it—expose it. Platforms like YouTube, Facebook and X have systems for reporting false information or go to, to report misleading information.

This election will define who we are as a country for decades to come. Make your vote a reflection of that.

This will undoubtedly be a defining year for all of us. Our votes, as individuals and as a nation, reflect who we are and who we want to be in the years ahead. So, it’s on each and every one of us as Americans to ask ourselves in this moment: Who do we want to be moving forward? Do we want to feed the noise or rise above it? Do we want to elevate politicians who use divisive rhetoric, or support those who recognize we are all in this together and inspire us to celebrate our common humanity?  

My hope is that we can unite collectively as an electorate and take a stand together, supporting candidates and amplifying voices on both sides of the aisle who speak the truth and demand the same of their fellow politicians. Our elected officials need to be able to disagree without being disagreeable, devote themselves to service above self-promotion, and commit themselves to bringing our country together instead of deploying rhetoric and other tactics that can tear us apart. It’s up to us, and the votes we cast, to send that message and demand that they do.

Democracy is a decision. Let’s all decide to do our part. Because it will take all of us working together to make sure it can work for everyone.

Jocelyn Benson is Michigan's 43rd Secretary of State. Her work overseeing Michigan’s 2020 and 2022 general elections earned her national recognition, including the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award and the Presidential Citizens Medal. She implemented new voting rights for all eligible Michiganders prior to the 2020 election, including the right to vote absentee, and oversaw more than 250 audits after the election, all of which affirmed its integrity and accuracy. To learn more, follow Jocelyn here.

The views expressed in Sunday Paper Guest Opinions are those of the authors and do not represent the views or positions of The Sunday Paper.

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