State settles lawsuit, allows poll challengers to stand within 6 feet of workers

    Susan J. Demas

    After a GOP state House candidate sued the state for setting social distancing restrictions on poll watchers and challengers, Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson settled the lawsuit allowing them to be within six feet of election workers.

    Prior to the lawsuit, the Michigan Department of State’s health guidance for the Nov. 3 election required all poll challengers and poll watchers to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth in polling locations, and only allowed them to stand within six feet of election workers while issuing challenges or viewing the poll book.

    Last week, state House candidate Steve Carra from Three Rivers filed a lawsuit against the guidance, saying that it impedes the challengers’ rights and duties.

    The settlement, filed in the Michigan Court of Claims Wednesday, still requires poll challengers and watchers to wear masks, but the state will release new guidance around social distancing.

    Carra’s attorney, Matt Gronda, said the new agreement allows challengers and poll watchers to “stand in closer proximity to election workers to have a challenge heard, to observe the poll book or perform any other legal duty … provided close personal interaction is as brief as possible.”

    Judge Cynthia Stephens also required the state to update the frequently asked questions page to show the recent changes from the agreement.

    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.