AG: ‘Baseless’ right-wing voter registration lawsuit dismissed

    Poll workers assist voters in Lansing on Election Day 2020. | Matt Schmucker

    Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced on Tuesday the voluntary dismissal of another lawsuit that challenged the integrity of Michigan’s 2020 general election.

    Tony Daunt sued Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Director of Elections Jonathan Brater last June alleging inadequate voter registration list maintenance. Daunt is executive director of the conservative Michigan Freedom Fund, which is backed by the billionaire DeVos family. He previously worked for Republican former Gov. Rick Snyder and the Michigan Republican Party. 

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, last month appointed Daunt to replace Aaron Van Langevelde as a GOP member of the Board of State Canvassers, the four-member panel composed of two Democrats and two Republicans is the body that certifies Michigan elections. The parties are responsible for submitting possible nominees. Van Langevelde voted in November to certify Michigan’s 2020 election results, noting the law was clear, but many Republican officials and activists were against it.

    Nessel said that the alleged claims in the suit “rested on old, estimated census data.” Further, it failed to account for the National Voter Registration Act’s (NVRA) required delays in removing names from voter registration files, as well as the NVRA’s prohibition against most routine list maintenance activities within 90 days of a federal election, Nessel added. 

    List maintenance or voter purges: How the practice of maintaining voter lists became so polarized

    Michigan held federal elections in March, August and November, making such activities essentially impossible last year.

    “The dismissal of this case is yet another example of a speculative claim and baseless allegations made during the 2020 election that ultimately proved unsustainable,” Nessel said. “I applaud Secretary Benson and her staff for their ongoing work in voter list maintenance registration, as well as their commitment to transparency, integrity and accuracy in Michigan’s elections.”

    Benson described Daunt’s measure as a “press release masquerading as a lawsuit.”

    “As we have said publicly all along, strong voter registration rates and accurate voter rolls are good for democracy,” Benson said. “And we have continued taking steps to responsibly maintain the state’s voter list since my first day in office by joining the Electronic Registration Information Center, proposing bipartisan legislation to give clerks more tools to update registrations, mailing absentee voting applications to all registered voters and now using that mailing to carry out the largest and most transparent list cleanup in a decade.”

    Benson announced earlier this month ongoing voter registration list maintenance that is being carried out transparently and in accordance with federal law. 

    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.