Progressive PAC sues state over absentee-voting requirements

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    A progressive political group has filed a federal lawsuit against the state challenging laws related to absentee voters. 

    In its lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit, the political action committee (PAC) Priorities USA says that the “fundamental right” of voting in Michigan “is contingent on the State’s arbitrary and standardless signature matching laws.”

    The laws, the PAC says, “have disenfranchised hundreds of voters in recent elections for no other reason than an election official’s subjective and arbitrary determination that a voter’s signature on an absentee ballot (or ballot application) did not match a prior signature that the voter provided to election officials.”

    Benson hails start of no-reason, mail-in voting in Michigan

    Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is named as the defendant in the case. A Benson spokesperson said Wednesday afternoon that the department had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit. 

    The Detroit News first reported news of the lawsuit earlier on Wednesday.

    The Secretary of State has a rule that absentee ballots are only valid if the signature you have on file with the state matches that on your ballot.

    Susan J. Demas

    Signature verification is one of the most common methods used by states to address discrepancies on absentee ballots, according to the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. 

    As part of Proposal 3, passed by voters last year, Michigan has moved to expand into “no reason” absentee voting.

    Priorities USA, however, argues that the “signature matching regime” is “highly error-prone.” In its lawsuit, the group cites a 2001 study that around one-quarter of signatures declared inauthentic were authentic.

    The group says this disenfranchises minority voters, those with disabilities and senior citizens because they “are more likely to have variations in their signatures.” 

    Priorities USA says the laws violate the First Amendment and the equal protection clause in the U.S. Constitution, as well as procedural due process. 

    Nick Manes
    Nick Manes covers West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels. His byline also has appeared in Route Fifty and The Daily Beast. When not reporting around the state or furiously tweeting, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Krista, biking around his hometown of Grand Rapids and torturing himself rooting for the Detroit Lions.