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Election Integrity News Blog


The Troubling Path of Partisanship in Secretary of State Elections (Part 1)

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

Part 1 of this two-part series explores the apparent partisanship efforts of Michigan's secretary of state. Part 2 examines the negative repercussions of partisan election administration on the nation as a constitutional republic.

by Patrice Johnson | October 3, 2023

The landscape of electoral politics appears to be deteriorating into more potholes than Michigan’s roads. An area of mounting concern is the alleged development of partisan influence on events organized by government agencies responsible for ensuring fair and unbiased elections. One event raising eyebrows is the upcoming Oct. 6 2023 Student Voting Summit orchestrated by Michigan's SOS Jocelyn Benson. Senator James Runestad's office has sounded the alarm, accusing the summit of being a thinly veiled partisan affair, sparking concerns about the implications of a seemingly impartial institution showing favoritism. In delving into the details of the controversy, it is crucial to understand how we arrived at a point where the department responsible for overseeing elections is exhibiting flagrant partisanship.

Senator Runestad's office claims that the Student Voting Summit, hosted by Oakland University and sponsored by Campus Vote Project and the Michigan Department of State, is far from the nonpartisan event it purports to be.

Attached is the document that only went to Democrats:,” wrote Teresa Renaud of Runestad’s office.

Allegedly, liberal speakers are being flown in, lunch is on the house for attendees, and swag bags are adorned with a partisan flair—all funded with taxpayer dollars. Adding fuel to the fire is the accusation that only one “token” Republican is allowed to participate in the panel discussion, making it more of a showcase for left-leaning ideologies than a genuinely inclusive discussion on student voting.

Deceptive Invitation

The controversy deepens as it is revealed that the invitation to legislators was strategically timed during a session break in the middle of July, catching many off guard. The summit is associated with Campus Vote Project, an organization claiming to be nonpartisan. But a closer look at its website reveals a different story. Moreover, the event website is hosted by Fair Elections Center, which has its roots in left-of-center advocacy. These connections raise questions about the transparency and true nature of the summit.

Further investigation into Fair Elections Center, formerly known as the Fair Elections Legal Network, reveals its left-of-center roots. Created in 2006, it originated as a project of the center-left New Venture Fund. The CEO, Robert "Bob" Brandon, has a history of advocacy related to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). These affiliations cast shadows on the purported neutrality of the summit and the organizations involved.

Another striking revelation is the exclusion of Republican legislators from panel participation. “Not a single Republican from Oakland County or Southeast Michigan was asked to participate in the panel” the Runestad flyer states. “We legislators were offered a seat in the audience to hear this Soros lecture and meet with the students after. However we were NOT offered the ability to participate in the panel discussion.”

Runestad’s call to action for a protest on October 6 at Oakland University aims to make voices heard against what is perceived as an attempt to censor Republican participation using taxpayer dollars.

Amid the controversy, a document from the Michigan Collegiate Student Advisory Task Force (CSATF) emerges, providing legislative recommendations to improve access to voting for college and university students in Michigan. The recommendations include allowing online voter registration for new Michigan residents without a state ID, funding campus voter-education efforts, requiring on-campus polling locations for larger institutions, and other proposals that, if enacted, would undermine election integrity and institute discriminatory practices into the state’s elections.

The controversy surrounding the 2023 Student Voting Summit in Michigan brings to light the potential pitfalls of partisan influence on events organized by government agencies tasked with ensuring fair elections. The accusations of using taxpayer dollars for partisan purposes raise questions about the integrity of the electoral process.

To quote the far-left Democracy Docket of Marc Elias, “The Great Lake State isn’t the only state where the election machinery relies on political partisans doing their duty without regard to partisan outcomes.

What sort of slippery slope is our state (and nation) on when the government office entrusted with administering fair and honest elections appears to be putting its thumb on the scales of what should be fair elections?

As citizens, it is imperative to stay vigilant and demand transparency, neutrality, and inclusivity in events that shape the political landscape, especially when organized by institutions responsible for upholding the democratic values of our constitutional republic


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