Lawsuit Alleges Mich. Dem Folded to Left-Wing Push to Expand Mail-In Voting

Republicans challenge ruling that Clinton alum Marc Elias called 'HUGE win'

The Michigan State Capital building (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
September 29, 2020

Michigan Republicans are challenging a move by Michigan's Democratic secretary of state to allow ballots without a legible postmark to be counted even after Election Day.

Michigan state senator Ruth Johnson (R.) and two Republican presidential electors filed a lawsuit on Tuesday alleging secretary of state Jocelyn Benson (D.) folded to a Democratic litigation effort to change how mail-in ballots are counted. Previous state laws required absentee ballots to come in by Election Day, but a state judge determined that the deadline for counting ballots could be extended without strict requirements on legible postmarks.

The new policy, enacted after legal challenges from top Democratic lawyer Marc Elias and other liberal groups, could result in ballots without legible postmarks being counted two weeks after Election Day, the lawsuit alleges. It accuses Benson of failing to defend the state's election laws in court.

"[Benson] refused to appeal the decision permitting the non-enforcement of the receipt deadline for absentee ballots," the lawsuit states. "In so doing, the Secretary has chosen to abandon the enforcement of statutes enacted by the Michigan Legislature."

Secretary Benson did not respond to an email request for comment. A decision on the legal challenge is expected soon.

Elias, the former general counsel for both Hillary Clinton's and John Kerry's failed presidential campaigns, brought the main legal challenge that resulted in the court's injunction. State judge Cynthia Stephens's decision was met with praise from both Elias, who described it as a "HUGE win," and Benson, who said it "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."

The plaintiffs' lawsuit has the backing of the Honest Elections Project, a nonpartisan election integrity group that is also involved in a similar case against Minnesota secretary of state Steve Simon (D.). Republicans filed a lawsuit to challenge Simon's effort to allow ballots lacking postmarks to be counted more than a week after Election Day.