Former Michigan Secretaries of State Continue Plan to Count Deferred Ballots After Election Day
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Two former Michigan Republican Secretaries of State are suing their Democratic successor to prevent the counting of delayed mail-in ballots that arrive up to two weeks after election day.
State Senator Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, who served as Secretary of State from 2011 to 2019, and Terri Lynn Land, who held that position from 2003 to 2011, as well as Conservative activist Marian Sheridan have filed a complaint federal versus the current Secretary of State. Jocelyn Benson on Tuesday September 29.
They are seeking to have ballots thrown out that arrive late at the clerks’ offices, even if they are postmarked before election day, according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs argue that counting delayed ballots would violate the Constitution by removing the decision from the hands of the US Congress or the state legislature.
“This policy of abandoning the role of the Legislative Assembly in setting the date and manner of elections threatens the integrity of the upcoming elections, will result in widespread and serious dilution of votes, create (at a minimum) uncertainty. and a substantial delay in Michigan’s ability to certify its results and casts serious doubt that the United States Congress will even accept the results of the popular vote in Michigan, ”the complaint states.
The secretary of state has yet to be served with the lawsuit, spokeswoman Tracy Wimmer said, and has otherwise not commented on the ongoing litigation.
The lawsuit follows a ruling by Claims Court Judge Cynthia Stephens Friday, September 18 who orders Benson to count the ballots delivered up to two weeks after the election to be counted, if they are stamped before November 2.
Stephens said the COVID-19 pandemic and documented post office delays make the current 8 p.m. deadline on November 3 an “unacceptable restriction” on postal ballots.
“The evidence in this case is undisputed and establishes that the messaging system is currently fraught with delays and uncertainties in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Stephens said. In particular, the Office of the Inspector General of the United States released a report that specifically identified Michigan as a state whose laws place voters at ‘high risk’ of being denied the right to vote. “
The ruling only applies to the 2020 general election. Benson issued a statement that supported Stephens’ opinion.
“No eligible voter should be deprived of the right to vote through no fault of his own for exercising his right to vote by mail,” she said in a written statement. “The court ruling recognizes many of the unique challenges the pandemic has created for all citizens and will reduce the risk of voters being denied the right to vote due to mail delays.
“However, we still want voters to make a plan to vote now and not wait until the last minute if they want to vote by mail. That is why we will continue to strongly encourage voters to request and return their postal ballots as soon as possible.
Stephens noted that a problem was clearly apparent during the August primary, when 6,400 postal ballots were disqualified because they arrived after the legal deadline.
The ruling allows all mail-in ballots to be counted if they are stamped before November 2 for this year’s general election and received before the results certification deadline, 14 days after election day.
Johnson and his company argue that Stephens’ decision does not expressly prohibit the secretary or election officials from counting ballots received within the 14-day period without a legible postmark.
“On information and conviction, the secretary intends to allow the counting of ballots received after November 3 without a legible postmark,” said the complaint.
This is the Conservatives’ second lawsuit against Benson in a matter of weeks.
In Election Integrity Fund and Glen Sitek v. Jocelyn Benson, the plaintiffs are challenging the Secretary of State’s office allowing people to request mail-in ballots online, which they say “does not comply with Michigan law and invites fraud.” Because the voter does not submit a signature in the online process, which is required by law, complainants say.
This lawsuit, filed in the Claims Court, asks a judge to declare the current system illegal and prevent the Secretary of State from using any absence request system that does not require the claimant to submit. a signature at the time of the request.
The Election Integrity Fund is a nonprofit welfare organization focused on preserving the integrity of Michigan’s elections, according to the lawsuit. His lawsuit was backed by the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based nonprofit law firm rooted in the pro-life movement.
The trial is still under advisement in Federal Court in Kalamazoo.