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Federal court rejects GOP challenge to Michigan election laws

voting booths
Proposal 3 of 2018 and Proposal 2 of 2022 ushered in no-reason absentee voting and in-person early voting to Michigan. Some Republican lawmakers argue those changes shouldn’t have bypassed the Legislature. (Bridge photo)
  • Federal court dismisses suit by Republican lawmakers challenging constitutionality of voter-approved election process changes
  • Proposal 3 of 2018 and Proposal 2 of 2022 added no-reason absentee voting, in-person early voting to state constitution 
  • Republicans argue initiative process improperly bypassed Legislature, vow appeal of court’s decision

A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed efforts by conservative state lawmakers to invalidate voter-initiated changes to Michigan election laws, leaving absentee balloting and early voting rules in place for the fall presidential contest.

Republican lawmakers who brought the suit are planning an appeal, however.


Last fall, a group of 11 Michigan lawmakers led by Sen. Jonathan Lindsey, R-Allen, sued Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state election officials, arguing that Proposal 3 of 2018 and Proposal 2 of 2022 should be invalidated because only the Legislature should be able to regulate the times, places and manner of federal elections.


The two ballot initiatives brought no-reason absentee voting, in-person early voting and other election changes to Michigan, and both were supported by a wide majority of voters. 

Attorneys for Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Elections Director Jonathan Brater moved to dismiss the case, noting that the Legislature has already codified in state law nearly all of the constitutional changes outlined in both ballot proposals. 

U.S. District Court Judge Jane Beckering agreed, finding the GOP lawmakers lacked standing for the court to move forward in considering the suit. 

As individual lawmakers, they failed to prove any specific injury to themselves that would warrant a federal court taking up the case, Beckering ruled in a 13–page opinion

"Plaintiffs’ asserted injury — the deprivation of the power to cast a binding vote — is neither concrete nor particularized because it is shared by every single member of the Michigan Legislature," Beckering wrote. 

State Sen. Jim Runestad, a White Lake Republican and one of the plaintiffs in the case, said the group and their attorneys aren’t surprised by the judge’s decision but feel it’s “completely off base” and plan to appeal. 

“As I understand it, the individual Legislature does have standing in a case like this, so it will be appealed,” he said. “Everyone still feels pretty good about it, and we want to get the appeal rolling in time to impact the upcoming elections.”

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