Michigan lawmakers aiming to appeal allowances for delayed ballots

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The Michigan Legislature is working to appeal a court ruling that would require local clerks to count late absentee ballots postmarked by Nov. 2 and received within 14 days of the Nov. 3 election. 

Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens said Tuesday she would reconsider a request from Republican lawmakers who want to appeal her ruling, even after Stephens denied an earlier request from the GOP-controlled chambers for intervenor status in the lawsuit filed by the Michigan Alliance for Retired Americans. 

In her Tuesday ruling, Stephens noted the Legislature's position had changed because the defendants named in the case — Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel — announced they would not appeal her decision. 

Stephens gave the Michigan Alliance for Retired Americans until Monday to respond to the Legislature's request to intervene and file an appeal. 

Serial litigant Robert Davis also has filed a motion to appeal the decision in the state Court of Appeals in his capacity as a Michigan voter.

GOP Rep. Ann Bollin, R-Brighton, said Tuesday Stephens' ruling contradicts "protections the Legislature has put in place to protect the integrity of our elections."

“While the secretary of state should appeal, she appears too focused on her own agenda to defend the laws that were put in place to safeguard our elections," Bollin said.

Stephens ruled Friday that clerks must accommodate late absentee ballots in light of delays with the U.S. Postal Service. Roughly 6,400 absentee ballots were rejected after the August primary because they arrived late to clerks' offices. 

Stephen also granted a request that would allow absentee voters to select anyone of their choosing to assist them in delivering their ballot between 5 p.m. Oct. 30 and Nov. 3, when help from the clerk's office may be unavailable. Bollin said Tuesday the judge's decision opens the door to ballot harvesting, which is illegal under state law.

Michigan law prohibits absentee voters from enlisting help in returning their ballots by anyone other than a mail-handler, clerk or assistant to the clerk, a person living in the household or a member of the immediate family.