As the November election draws nearer, Americans won't be voting just for a presidential candidate, both state and local candidates will be voted upon, too. In Michigan, there will be dozens of candidates running for the first time and for reelection across the state. Between The Lines has reached out to pro-equality candidates to get a sense of their goals and priorities for the LGBTQ community if they are to be elected. To get a full list of the pro-equality candidates running, visit mivoterguide.com.
Here, Oakland County Clerk and Register of Deeds Lisa Brown answers questions about why she would be a good fit for reelection.
Why are you running for reelection?
I'm running for reelection to ensure that the programs I started continue, such as a program for people facing extreme hardship so that they can get a copy or copies of a vital record — basically their birth certificate either for free or a reduced cost. And to ensure accessibility — that's been a big issue for me. That's something that I'm constantly striving to improve to make sure that everyone has access to our services and I've just opened a satellite office, even in the middle of a pandemic, to make sure that people have access to our services. I'm also interested in maintaining efficiency and fiscal responsibility. My background, even before I came here, I'm an attorney, so I understand the courts and the documents that we keep here. I'm a former realtor, so as register of deeds, I have the knowledge of what goes on there as well. My two terms in the legislature, I served on the Elections Committee and since being in office I earned the national designation of certified elections registration administrator — there's only a handful of us in Michigan. So I have the knowledge and the background not just having been in this position for now over 7 ¬Ω years but I came into this position with a lot of the knowledge about different divisions. And I see that's what Oakland County expects and deserves: to have someone who actually knows what they are doing in the office.
What sets you apart from other candidates running for this office?
I am a lifelong resident of Oakland County and I believe that it is the County Clerk's job to work for all citizens of the county and all residents of the county. I'm sure you know that I fought for marriage equality and officiated over 80 weddings in that short period of time [when LGBTQ marriage was legal] back in March 2014. My opponent is a graduate of Liberty University and is supported by Janice Daniels, the former Troy mayor that was recalled because of her homophobic policies and behaviors. I still officiate weddings here and I'm open to everybody and I don't know that my opponent would be that same way. I have concerns about that as well.
What are your top three priorities for your county?
Accessibility is always at the top of my list. I'm always coming up with new ways or programs to make our services more accessible. Before the pandemic, I held local office visits as well as voter registration drives all over the county. I've done voter registration drives at homeless shelters to ensure that everyone has access to the ballot, and I brought the super index to the Register of Deeds Office, which allows people to search our property records for free. In our other program, you had to pay to search and they're public records, so I don't think you should have to pay to look at what's there and recorded on your home. We'll be implementing a new program in the Register of Deeds office to use newer technology next year, and I've been working on a program that would allow candidates to file their campaign finance records electronically like the state does. And, of course, I'm always committed to ensuring that every citizen has access to the ballot and that our elections are accurate, secure and fair.
What's an issue you wish more voters were aware of going into Nov. 3 the election?
I think the importance of this job. I think a lot of people don't know what the County Clerk and Register of Deeds does until they come here and need a copy of their birth certificate, but I don't think they realize everything that happens in this office. Or maybe they know elections, but they don't realize what role I have in elections, so I would like people to know that I serve as clerk to the circuit court and keeper of the records. I touch on birth, death and everything in-between. And it's not just a race to skip, it's an important job and we need someone who is qualified, dedicated and ethical and fiscally responsible in this office and that's me.
Given your own experience as an ally for the LGBTQ community, how will you support LGBTQ constituents going forward?
I still officiate weddings. This is a place where I have found that people sometimes seek me out to be their officiant, which I'm always honored to do. I know that this is a place where people can feel welcome and comfortable and I don't think it would be that way with my opponent. And I think it's important for my staff members who are members of the LGBTQ community to know that their boss is an ally. I think that's important in your workplace as well.