ballots
FILE - In this Aug. 5, 2020, file photo, vote-by-mail ballots are shown in sorting trays at the King County Elections headquarters in Renton, Wash., south of Seattle. In every U.S. presidential election, thousands of ballots are rejected and never counted. They may have arrived after Election Day or were missing a voter's signature. That number will be far higher this year as the coronavirus pandemic forces tens of millions of Americans to vote by mail for the first time. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Considering postal delays and the pandemic, Michigan will count ballots for two weeks after Election Day.

LANSING, MI — Ballots will be counted for two weeks after the election, a Michigan court announced Friday.

Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens ruled that any absentee ballot postmarked by Nov. 2—the day before the election—and received within two weeks of the election, must be counted. 

“The evidence in this case stands uncontroverted and establishes that the mail system is currently fraught with delays and uncertainty in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Stephens said.

The Proof Is in the Primary

This follows Michigan’s August primary, where The ‘Gander reported the bulk of the 10,000 uncounted ballots were left out because of postal delays and comes as postal delays have been overtly stated to be part of President Donald Trump’s strategy to reduce voter turnout. 

“They want $3.5 billion for the mail-in votes, universal mail-in ballots. They want $25 billion for the Post Office. They need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said. “But if they don’t get those two items that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting, because they’re not equipped to have it.”

That slowdown has had serious knock-on effects on small businesses and public health as well as elections, but it was central to Stephens’ decision. She wrote that the example of August’s primary showed clearly the dangers of not changing this policy before Nov. 3. 

“Plaintiffs presented affidavit evidence that many voters were in fact deprived of having their absent voter ballot tallied in the August primary,” Stephens wrote.”Affidavits and testimony detailed that despite voters requesting [absentee] ballots weeks in advance of the primary, their actual ballot arrived as late as Election Day.”

She also cited an instance where a Wyandotte voter’s ballot was somehow routed out of state before eventually making it to her clerk—late.  

This answers a grave concern had by Michigan’s Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. Benson had previously failed to get courts to come to a similar decision and had been trying to get the state legislature to take up a measure to allow those votes to count on Election Day. 

“These are valid ballots that were voted on time and submitted on time and our voters’ rights should not be subject to the capacity of the US Postal Service,” Benson said while breaking down statistics after August’s primary. “Every data point coming out of Tuesday has underscored and shown us exactly how to run an election amidst a pandemic. To welcome record turnout and to identify what changes we can make—we can make these changes, there’s nothing standing in our way—to put us in the best possible position to succeed in November.”

This will, however, likely ensure the winner of the election will not be known on election night. 

Stephens’ ruling is likely to be appealed by Michigan Republicans, who have stepped in as defendants. As a result, this decision could still be reversed by Election Day. 

More Election Changes Come from Michigan’s Court

Stephens made two other rulings impacting Election Day, too.  

First, she rejected an effort to ensure ballots be delivered even if a voter doesn’t provide postage. 

She also ruled that Michigan voters can enlist help returning their absentee ballots between Oct. 30 and Nov. 3, where previously only mail carriers and election officials were permitted to assist voters.

The court is convinced that the time deadline imposed on the fail-safe option of seeking assistance from the clerk risks leaving too many voters without the opportunity of receiving assistance in returning their ballots,” Stephens wrote. “Moreover, there is little evidence to suggest that fraud would increase with a larger pool of persons eligible to assist absentee voters.”