SOS taps new elections chief

    Susan J. Demas

    Jonathan Brater is the new director of the Michigan Bureau of Elections starting Jan. 2.

    Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced Brater will replace retiring Director Sally Williams. Williams served for two years, succeeding Chris Thomas, who held the position for 36 years, and currently chairs the Department of State’s Election Modernization Advisory Committee.

    Jonathan Brater

    Brater has worked alongside Williams for the past 11 months as he focused on elections while serving as the Department of State’s legal policy director.

    “I feel fortunate for the opportunity to have worked with both Sally and Chris, and humbled by the opportunity to continue their legacy,” said Brater. “I have spent my career seeking to strengthen democracy for all people, and I will continue that work for the people of Michigan.”

    He previously served as counsel for the nonpartisan, New York-based Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, where he focused on modernizing elections in partnership with secretaries of state around the country. Brater graduated cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School, where he served as executive editor of the Michigan Law Review.

    Brater is an Ann Arbor native and the son of former state Sen. Liz Brater (D-Ann Arbor). He was selected after an open application process that began shortly after Williams announced her retirement earlier this month.

    “Throughout his career Jonathan has demonstrated his commitment to secure, non-partisan election administration,” said Benson. “His deep expertise of elections practice nationally and in Michigan will be of tremendous benefit to the state.”

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    Susan J. Demas is an 18-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.