LDF-backed Lawsuit Overturns Michigan SOS Signature Verification Guidance
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson issued guidance in October requiring local clerks in charge of reviewing signatures to presume the signatures on absentee ballot applications and ballots were valid and to further accept the signatures as valid if they contained “any redeeming qualities.” Michigan law clearly requires signatures on absentee ballot applications and return envelopes to sufficiently agree with those on the voter file to be valid.
Therefore, LDF supported a lawsuit to overturn Secretary Benson’s guidance, arguing the guidance violated the Michigan Administrative Procedures Act in how it bound local clerks in future elections without going through required rulemaking procedures.
The Michigan Court of Claims agreed, holding “the standards issued by defendant Benson on October 6, 2020, with respect to signature-matching requirements amounted to a ‘rule’ that should have been promulgated in accordance with the APA. And absent compliance with the APA, the ‘rule’ is invalid.”
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LDF was quoted regarding mail ballots in an article on the impact of the novel coronavirus on elections:
Beyond delays that could undermine public confidence in election results, some critics of vote-by-mail also argue it is less secure than in-person voting.
“If there are widespread service disruptions due to illness and quarantines, the mail may not be a reliable way for people to submit their ballots,” said Lisa Dixon, publications director for the Lawyers Democracy Fund. “Mail ballots also are an easy vehicle for election manipulation by bad actors, as the secrecy of the voting booth cannot be maintained outside a polling place.”
According to Dixon, state and local election officials have contingency plans for disasters and they appear to be taking COVID-19 seriously, trying to protect both public health and the integrity of elections. As they prepare to mitigate the risk in their communities, a national decree from Congress may cause more problems than it solves.
“At this point, it is important for voters to remember that election officials are committed to running a fair election and protecting citizens’ right to vote,” she said. “The best thing that individuals can do now is to follow health officials’ advice to contain the spread of the virus and allow election officials to make their contingency plans in the hope that they will not be necessary.”
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In a lawsuit supported by LDF, Judge Christopher Murray of the Michigan Court of Claims held that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s last-minute signature matching guidance violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). While Michigan law clearly requires signatures on absentee ballot applications and return envelopes to sufficiently agree with those…
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