The Secretary of State

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson

Elected as Michigan's 42nd Secretary of State in November 2010, Ruth Johnson serves as chief motor vehicle administrator and chief election officer for the state's nearly 10 million residents. She also maintains the state's official repository of records and certifies documents as Keeper of the Great Seal.  She is second in line of succession to the governor.


Secretary of State Ruth JohnsonNow in her second term as secretary, Johnson has made huge strides in streamlining operations, improving customer service and safeguarding election integrity. Using technology and common sense and by fostering partnerships between the private and public sectors, her team at the Department of State cut costs, reduced their general fund budget by 20 percent and improved efficiency for the people of Michigan.

Among her accomplishments, Johnson tripled online services with the launch of ExpressSOS.com. To date, millions of transactions have been successfully handled by customers using this “no-wait” Secretary of State, which features Print ‘N Go technology.  She also implemented MI-TIME Line, a new line management tool at the eighteen busiest Secretary of State branch offices that allows customers to hold their place in line electronically while they stay home or run errands. The system then notifies them when their turn in line is approaching at the branch office. And she partnered with AAA Michigan and public libraries to provide local access points where customers can utilize public computer stations to complete SOS transactions online.

She also successfully introduced a comprehensive election reform package, her Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) initiative to clean up Michigan’s voter rolls, toughen campaign finance laws and ensure integrity in the elections process. Through this effort, she fought for – and won – the most significant election reform measures in recent history, including Michigan’s first-ever post election audits, the closing of photo ID loopholes and increasing voter access to campaign contribution information.  

Through her OPERATION: OUR TROOPS COUNT initiative, she has fought to protect the vote of our overseas military personnel and ensure all Michigan veterans get the benefits they have earned by providing a veteran designation on driver’s licenses and state ID cards.

Additionally, Johnson made expanding Michigan’s Organ Donor Registry a priority through new policies and an awareness campaign. Working with SOS employees and partners Gift of Life Michigan and Eversight Michigan,  the efforts paid off with historic gains – a record-setting 2 million Michiganders added their names to the donor lists since 2011. In 2015, for the first time ever, more than half of the adult population in Michigan was on the state’s organ donor registry.

Johnson's work as secretary continues a distinguished career in public service. As a three-term member of the Michigan House of Representatives from 1999 through 2004, she also served on the Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Education, Health Policy and Transportation Committees.

During her time as a legislator, Johnson, a fiscal conservative, led investigations into the misappropriation of funds at the Oakland County Intermediate School District that resulted in the conviction of a public official and restored money earmarked for kids.

In 2004, Johnson was the first woman ever elected to serve as Oakland County’s clerk/register of deeds. As clerk for the state’s second-largest county, she won 14 national awards for innovative services that saved money and promoted transparency and accountability. She doubled online services, put campaign finance records online and successfully changed laws to help families in foreclosure. In 2006, she was a nominee for lieutenant governor in Michigan.

From 1988 to 1998, Secretary Johnson was a member of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners. As commissioner, she tackled such issues as putting prisoners to work and instituting countywide performance audits that provide accountability in government.

A lifelong resident of northern Oakland County, Johnson is also a former small business owner. She is a graduate of Waterford Township High School and has an associate's degree from Oakland Community College, a bachelor's degreeSOS Seal from Oakland University and a master's degree from Wayne State University, with honors. She lives in Holly with her husband, Don Nanney, a small-business owner, and their daughter, Emily.

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Secretary of State Ruth Johnson Press Photo