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Verdicts & Settlements

Democratic Group Wins Lawsuits Relaxing Absentee Voting Restrictions in Michigan, Pennsylvania

— September 21, 2020

Clerks in Michigan will have to accept absentee ballots up to two weeks after Election Day.

A major Democratic group has won favorable rulings in lawsuits intended to relax absentee voting restrictions in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Courts in both states recently ruled in favor of litigants backed by Priorities USA, a super-PAC with ties to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Priorities USA, notes The Hill, has spent over $34 million in recent years on election-related litigation favorable to Democrats.

According to The Hill, the rulings extend the dates by which absentee ballots may be received and processed.

Extending such deadlines may provide a benefit to prospective Democratic voters, who, says The Hill, are more likely to vote by mail due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic than their Republican counterparts.

The decisions also eased regulations on Pennsylvania’s intended use of ballot drop boxes.

Aneesa McMillan, director of Priorities USA’s voting rights program, told The Hill that the week’s victories are nothing short of significant.

“This week definitely expanded access to the ballot in ways that benefit voters across these two states,” McMillan said, adding that the rulings help ensure that “everyone who is eligible to vote is allowed to do so without unnecessary barriers.”

Gavel resting on open book; image by verkeorg, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.
Gavel resting on open book; image by verkeorg, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.

Other progressive groups have won similar victories across the United States.

In Michigan, for instance, Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens determined that absentee ballots received up to two weeks after election day can still be counted, provided they are postmarked before November 3rd.

Before Stephens’s decision, Michigan intended only to accept absentee ballots received by 8pm on Election Day.

Stephen’s ruling related to a case supported by the Michigan Alliance for Retired Americans, which argued that in-person voting during a pandemic may be dangerous for older voters.

However, John Clark, a law professor at Western Michigan University, said it is important that people realize there are numerous lawsuits challenging voting laws across the United States—and that it is possible decisions like Stephens’s may be overturned or invalidated by November.

“This is one of several lawsuits going on [in] Michigan and across the country, and so the fact that one judge has made one ruling doesn’t mean that by even Election Day that’s the ruling that’s going to be standing,” Clark told 3WWMT.

Clark further said that if Stephens’s ruling does hold, it may cause a delay in processing the results of the presidential election—Trump won Michigan by a small margin in 2016, meaning that another close race could take weeks to call.


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