2 judges make major rulings this week centered around Nov. election

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Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens ruled Friday that Michigan clerks must accept any late ballots that were postmarked no later than the day before the election, Nov. 2, and received 14 days after the election

Stephens said there was “affidavit evidence that many voters were in fact deprived of having their absent voter ballot tallied in the August primary.”

More than 6,400 valid ballots received after the Aug. 4 primary were rejected.

“Affidavits and testimony detailed that despite voters requesting absent ballots weeks in advance of the primary, their actual ballot arrived as late as Election Day,” Stephens wrote.

The preliminary injunction only applies to the Nov. 3 general election.

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Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who is the named defendant, has been pushing for legislation that would allow clerks to count late ballots that were postmarked before Election Day.

“No eligible voter should be disenfranchised through no fault of their own for exercising their right to vote by mail,” Benson said. “The court’s decision recognizes many of the unique challenges that the pandemic has created for all citizens and will reduce the potential for voter disenfranchisement due to mail delays.”

Stephens also granted a request for preliminary injunction that wouldn’t limit absentee voters to who is allowed to assist them in completing their ballot when help from the clerk’s office may be unavailable, which is prohibited under Michigan law. 

Michigan law only allows a mail-handler, clerk, assistant to the clerk, a person living in the household or a member of the immediate family to help fill out a ballot.

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Stephens said this restriction “risks leaving too many voters without the opportunity of receiving assistance in returning their ballots.”

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Stephanie Davis, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, granted a preliminary injunction to block a state law and lift restrictions on paying to transport people to polling places. 

The lawsuit was filed by Priorities USA, a Washington, D.C.-based Democratic SuperPAC, in November 2019.

“Congress implemented a statutory scheme and gave citizens the right to spend money on transporting voters to the polls. The November election is nearly upon us and any particular election only occurs once,” Davis wrote.

Allison Donahue
Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.