State and national Republicans sue Michigan over extended ballot deadline

Judge Cynthia Stephens will be asked to reconsider her own decision from last week that allowed ballots postmarked by Nov. 2 to be counted in the general election. (Shutterstock)

State and national Republicans are suing Democratic Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson in an attempt to halt a decision released late last week that would allow ballots received after Election Day to count this November as long as they’re postmarked by the day before the election. 

The lawsuit, filed by the Michigan Republican Party and the Republican National Committee in the state Court of Claims Thursday, also argues that the court should reverse another decision from last week that would temporarily ease restrictions on who can help people return absentee ballots to their clerk, what Republicans traditionally call “ballot harvesting.”


Republican groups in other states, too, have filed legal challenges to voting-related rules in recent days, including state Republicans in Minnesota fighting an extended deadline for absentee ballot receipt and in Texas challenging the governor of their own party over an extension of early voting.

The Michigan case is assigned to Judge Cynthia Stephens, who issued the decision last week that Republicans are contesting. The two groups were among those that sought to join the last case as intervening defendants, but they were denied, making it impossible for them to appeal the decision. 

Existing Michigan law requires ballots to reach clerks’ offices by Election Day (this year it’s Nov. 3) in order to be counted. Of the 10,600 absentee ballots that were rejected in the August primary, 6,400 of them were because they reached the clerk too late. The law also says only an immediate family member or a housemate can return absentee ballots to clerks for a voter besides themselves or a working mail deliverer. 

Stephens temporarily halted those rules for the November election, writing that the voter’s right to vote by mail is “severely restricted, and at times outright eliminated” by the unusual conditions of the coronavirus and existing U.S. Postal Service mail delays. 

Republicans argued that the ban on who can transport ballots to the polls “implements commonsense rules that prophylactically aim to curb ‘voter fraud’ and ballot tampering,” and that the pandemic doesn’t “nullify the Legislature’s obligation to set a deadline” for ballot receipt, and that the existing ballot deadline doesn’t “effectively preclude a voter from completing the process of voting by absentee ballot.”

The Michigan Republican Party did not immediately return a Bridge Michigan request for comment on the filing. Lavora Barnes, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, said in a statement that the courts have already made a clear decision. 

“We should be asking the Republicans why they don't want every single vote in Michigan to count,” Barnes said. “With 39 days to go Republicans are pulling out all the tricks to disenfranchise voters, while the Democrats are focused on ensuring that every eligible voter in Michigan can cast a ballot and be guaranteed it will be counted." 

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Fri, 09/25/2020 - 8:18pm

Ah, the Republican Party - keeping people from voting is their biggest priority. Election day should be a holiday or on weekends. But more people voting might mean a stronger democracy and that would be something the GOP would fight to the death.
Ultimately they'd like to limit voting to white males who own property. Oh, older white males who own property.

William C. Plumpe
Sun, 09/27/2020 - 10:19am

Good idea Rick. I'm sure the Republicans and Trump would want to go even further back in time and eliminate vote of the people entirely because it is so inefficient and costly.
Go back to medieval times and the monarchy with counts and kings making all the decisions for the peasants. Republicans would love that because Republicans would be the rulers.

Mon, 09/28/2020 - 5:30am

Ah, the Democrat party, changing the rules at the 11th hour to steal power by judicial fiat instead of allowing the constitutionally mandated rule that the legislature of a state set electoral process, not one democrat judge.

Sat, 09/26/2020 - 9:42am

Yeah, ‘cause the GOP knows ballot harvesting...

Sat, 09/26/2020 - 10:51am

Lavora Barnes: "We should be asking the Republicans why they don't want every single vote in Michigan to count." As should everyone who has common sense. The answer is simple. Republicans know they've failed to make their case on the merits, and therefore, most voters don't agree with them. The only way they can win is to screw up the voting process: since most voters disagree with them, their efforts are bound to mainly stop that kind of voter.

Mon, 09/28/2020 - 5:33am

Every single legal vote counted that shows up on time with the proper signatures and follows the rules.

How can you be ok with changing the rules at the 11th hour by one judge? How can you not see this could lead to corruption?

Wed, 09/30/2020 - 9:42am

Why is a postmark date okay for things like taxes but not voting? If a "legal vote" with the proper signatures is postmarked before Nov 3rd, why shouldn't that be counted?

Sun, 09/27/2020 - 8:49am

Democrats need to cheat to win the election. Mail in voting opens the door for them to harvest votes from unlikely Uninformed voters .
It’s called Election Day for a reason.

Bob Jenkins
Sun, 09/27/2020 - 8:58am

Judges are suppose to interpret laws, not change them; activist judges are a huge problem with this country. This isn't about disenfranchising voters, its about preventing fraud. Early (in person) voting started on September 24. I've been receiving ballot applications for at least a month now. There is no excuse for people not to be able to get their ballot in by election day.

middle of the mit
Mon, 09/28/2020 - 12:55am

The Michigan Republican Party did not immediately return a Bridge Michigan request for comment on the filing. Lavora Barnes, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, said in a statement that the courts have already made a clear decision.

I am just wondering something. Does Bridge or the MI press or the National press notice a pattern?

YOU are never offered ANY response from Publicans. WHY do you accept that? Why does the electorate accept that? Yet the Press hammers Dems for answers and they offer them.

Who is anti democratic? Who is anti republican? I know who!

Can I OUT them?

PUBLICANS ARE!! If you weren't? You wouldn't be acting like snowflakes!!! Melting when the questions come your way!!!!!!!!!!!!!

These people are supposed to the best of the best! The leaders of business and innovation, ingenuity and creativity! Yet when pressed on what the companies, organizations or government offices they have run? They can't seem to remember. And the Press does what? Accepts amnesia from our leaders, corporate conglomerates and law makers. And all is good!

So much so, that our President has been telling us to rake our forests for Four years.

I just thought the Press would like to know what they have been allowing to be....................when you are the only ones that can push back.......especially when you limit others comments in the comment section.


Tue, 09/29/2020 - 9:10am

I still have yet to receive a satisfying answer as to why all votes postmarked before election day shouldn't be counted even if received after election day. The amount of time someone has between when they receive their absentee ballot and election day is irrelevant especially for undecided voters who might want to watch all of the presidential debates before casting their vote. Plus there are a myriad of other reasons why someone might not be able to fill out and send their ballot immediately. Why is a postmark sufficient deadline for taxes but not voting? Why do we need to "call" the election the same night considering votes in Michigan don't have to be certified until twenty days later?