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Opinion: Judge's ballot harvesting decision threatens election integrity

Mike Shirkey

The death of democracy will not come in the form of single, dramatic event.  It will be a steady, incremental chipping away of our institutions and our laws until we do not recognize our nation. Most recently, it comes in the form of a jurist in Michigan legislating from the bench, and in doing so, threatening the integrity of our election.

Last week, Judge Cynthia Stephens ruled that clerks must accept and process late ballots received up to 14 days after the Nov. 3 election, as long as the ballots are postmarked by Nov. 2, 2020.  She also issued an injunction to allow ballot harvesting, which permits individuals to collect and submit ballots from people outside their immediate family. Stephens has unilaterally changed Michigan’s election laws from her bench. 

With her ruling, Stephens has allowed for ballot harvesting in Michigan, Shirkey writes.

Stephens has vacated her responsibility to interpret the law and instead chose judicial activism. Her 14-day forced acceptance window means individuals now have more and greater opportunity to perpetuate election fraud. 

With her ruling, Stephens has allowed for ballot harvesting in Michigan. She has made it possible for individuals, or even groups, to organize efforts to gather up absentee ballots and deliver them to drop boxes and clerk offices throughout Michigan. 

Or, perhaps even more concerning, a campaign operative could gather ballots from supporters of the opposing candidate, and then throw the ballots in the trash. This ruling also begs the question, “What assurances do we have that these individuals and groups will not attempt (and succeed) at influencing how those ballots are filled out?”

Stephens has disenfranchised voters that elected representatives to the legislature to propose, debate, and pass laws in the best interests of their communities.  Our Constitution, Article II, established the Legislature as the sole designer and definer of election laws. The voters of Michigan have been denied their right to representative democracy by a single jurist choosing to write the law without debate, discussion, or a vote.

This latest act by Stephens follows a pattern of elected and appointed officials abandoning their constitutional duties in favor of furthering a progressive agenda. If Stephens wanted to write laws, she should have campaigned to be elected to the state legislature or to Congress. Instead, she was appointed a judge. Her duty is to interpret, not write the law.

The Michigan Senate and House have taken steps to pursue an appeal. The integrity of the November election in is jeopardy as a result of this ruling. And Stephens has dealt another blow to our sacred democracy. 

Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, is the Michigan Senate majority leader and state senator from the 16th district comprised on Branch, Hillsdale, and Jackson counties.