While President Trump argues against the right to vote by mail, Michiganders are suing to make it easier during the coronavirus pandemic.
LANSING, MI — As mail-in voting shapes Michigan’s election process during the pandemic — with more participation than ever — some Michiganders are taking issue with the deadline for when absentee ballots can be received.
Right now, a ballot must be received by the time polls close on election day to be counted, regardless of when it was postmarked. A new lawsuit, League of Women Voters v. Benson, aims to change that rule to allow any ballot sent before polls close to be counted, as long as it’s received within a week of the election.
“Michigan election officials continue to enforce a century-old requirement that absentee ballots must be rejected if they arrive at the clerk’s office after election day, even if they were mailed on or before election day,” reads the suit filed by the League of Women Voters and the American Civil Liberties Union. “This received-by-election-day deadline patently violates, among other constitutional provisions, the constitutional amendment giving voters the absolute right to submit their ballots by mail in the 40 days leading up to election night.”
How the Pandemic Plays a Role in the Lawsuit
Michigan is leveraging vote-by-mail strategy for August and November elections to help prevent the kind of chaos that surrounded Wisconsin’s April election which infected more than 60 voters with the virus.
MLive reports that postal service has slowed during the pandemic as postal workers contract the virus. The increased costs associated with the pandemic have also threatened the long-term survival of the postal service, reports CNN. This leaves uncertainty as to when mail, including election ballots, are received.
While voters can drop their ballots off at their local clerk’s office, Benson has stressed that voting by mail is every Michigander’s right.
The lawsuit also seeks to compel the state to provide postage for ballots and to mail those ballots to voters 40 days before the election.
“Given COVID-19, vote by mail will play a critical role in the 2020 elections as voters look to protect their health and participate in democracy,” said Theresa Lee, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “Right now, Michigan’s absentee ballot voting process is not ready to meet its biggest test ever when millions attempt to vote by absentee ballot. This lawsuit seeks to resolve those issues.”
The Right to Vote by Mail
The lawsuit to expand and ease access to vote-by-mail options comes after President Donald Trump has been feuding with Benson and other Secretaries of State over implementing the process. Confusing ballot applications with the actual ballots themselves, Trump incorrectly asserted that what Benson was doing was illegal.
Trump’s false remarks about absentee voting being rampant with fraud have been so thoroughly debunked.
Twitter also fact-checked his tweets on the matter. Trump lashed out Wednesday morning arguing that the fact-checking amounted to silencing conservative voices. He said he would consider attempting to shut the platform down.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.