League of Women Voters sues SOS over Proposal 3 enforcement

    Michigan State University voting | Anna Liz Nichols

    The Michigan League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson Friday to remove barriers to the absentee voting rights.

    The lawsuit, filed in the Michigan Court of Appeals, suggests that voting rights laid out in Proposal 3, which Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved in 2018, are not being strictly enforced. 

    “The Michigan League of Women Voters was a vocal supporter of Proposal 3 in 2018, and as part of our mission to advance democracy in Michigan, we believe voting must be accessible and convenient for every registered voter,” said Christina Schlitt, President of League of Women Voters of Michigan. “The unconstitutional barriers to absentee voting in Michigan need to be removed as they hamper participation in the democratic process and go against the will of the people.” 

    Under a century-old state election law, an absentee ballot is not counted unless a local clerk receives it by 8 p.m. on election day. However, under Proposal 3, clerks are required to count all absentee ballots postmarked on or before the day of an election.

    Updated: Benson counters Trump’s inaccurate voting tweet: ‘We sent applications, not ballots’

    According to the group, tens of thousands of votes could go uncounted in the August and November elections if Proposal 3 is not enforced.

    The lawsuit also asserts that absentee ballots must be available to voters 40 days prior to the date of an election, clerks must immediately process absentee ballot applications and the state of Michigan should pay for the postage incurred by voters returning their ballots.  

    “Proposal 3 needs to be implemented and enacted the way it was written, which is what voters approved,” Schlitt said. “The way our elections are conducted must be consistent with Proposal 3, especially ahead of these upcoming elections to prevent the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of voters.” 

    The lawsuit comes after Benson was targeted by President Donald Trump after she announced that all Michigan residents will be mailed absentee ballot applications for the upcoming elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    Initially, Trump wrongly accused her of sending absentee ballots to all residents, but later deleted the tweet and corrected it to say “ballot applications.” However, he still threatened to limit federal funding to Michigan if Benson follows through with her proposal to send out applications. 

    Allison Donahue
    Allison 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.