Ohio and Michigan secretaries of state come together to encourage civility

Wed, 2019-06-19

By Rick Rouan

Secretaries of state from Ohio and Michigan want their counterparts from around the country to join together in restoring civility in politics and confidence in elections.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said during a conference for about 800 Ohio county election officials Tuesday that they are attempting to form a civility task force.

They will co-chair the task force, working with the National Institute for Civil Discourse, and invite other secretaries to join them during a gathering in New Mexico later this month.

“Civility is not just about being nicer to each other. That’s part of it,” LaRose said. “But it’s about creating the opportunity to govern. ... We want to lead the way and we want to encourage our fellow secretaries of state to lead the way in speaking out against misinformation and some of the partisan hyperbole around elections administration.”

Neither LaRose, a Republican, nor Benson, a Democrat, is endorsing a candidate in the 2020 election, choosing instead to remain on the sidelines as an impartial elections overseer. LaRose compared his role in the 2020 presidential election to a referee.

“As Ohio’s chief elections officer I need to conduct myself in a way that all Ohioans should know that there’s no thumb on the scale and that we are running honest elections,” he said.

Both secretaries said they are worried about how political rhetoric — from candidates, political parties, media and foreign actors — will affect voter confidence in what they expect to be a “contentious” 2020 election.