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Berrien native leads national group

Published 7:37pm Tuesday, January 29, 2013

LANSING – Michigan Elections Director Christopher Thomas on Thursday was sworn in as the new president of the National Association of State Election Directors, a group that shares elections administration know-how among state leaders.

“It’s an honor to be selected by my peers as president,” said Thomas, a St. Joseph native who lives in Okemos. “I look forward to working with my fellow state election directors to share what we learned from the 2012 election and find ways to further improve elections in our states.”

Then-Secretary of State Richard Austin, a Democrat, appointed Thomas elections director in 1981. He later served under three Republican secretaries of state, most recently under Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. He began his career in elections administration in 1974 by working for the U.S. House of Representatives and later the Federal Election Commission.

“Michigan voters have been well-served by the experience, knowledge and consistency Chris Thomas has provided as elections director,” said Johnson, who previously served as the Oakland County clerk. “Under his leadership, the Bureau of Elections has done an excellent job insuring that local clerks and precinct workers are well-prepared for Election Day.”

Bureau of Elections staff works closely with the 1,600 clerks of the state’s counties, cities, townships and villages to provide training and assist local election officials with their administrative duties. The bureau is responsible for administering the state’s Qualified Voter File, and Michigan election, campaign-finance and lobbyist disclosure laws.

Formed in 1989, with Thomas as a member, the election directors association promotes accessible, accurate and transparent elections in the United States and U.S. territories. It serves as an exchange of best practices and ideas, which has been particularly important in recent years as states have implemented the federal Help America Vote Act. The 2002 law required statewide electronic voter lists, created nationwide elections administration standards and mandated the replacement of certain voting systems, such as punch cards and lever-action voting machines. The group reviews and comments on emerging voting system technologies.

Thomas previously has served as chair of the Board of Advisors to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission from 2006-2008, and was awarded the association’s Distinguished Service Award in 2012. He previously served as the association’s president in 1997.


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