League of Women Voters of Michigan files lawsuit to remove barriers to absentee voting

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FILE – In this March 10, 2020, file photo, a man votes in the presidential primary election at the the Summit View Church of the Nazarene in Kansas City, Mo. A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday, April 29, 2020, that proof of citizenship requirement for Kansas voter registration is unconstitutional. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

Lansing, Mich. (WLNS) — The Michigan League of Women Voters is filing a lawsuit against the Secretary of State so that absentee ballots postmarked on or before Election Day are counted.

Without that change, it could mean tens of thousands of votes could go uncounted in the August and November elections. Michigan voters, like voters in other states, should be able to have their votes counted if postmarked on or before Election Day, the League said. 

The lawsuit, filed in the Michigan Court of Appeals today, asks the Court to remove barriers to the absentee voting rights created by Proposal 3, which Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved in 2018.  

“The Michigan League of Women Voters was a vocal supporter of Proposal 3 in 2018, and as part of our mission to advance democracy in Michigan, we believe voting must be accessible and convenient for every registered voter,” said Christina Schlitt, President of League of Women Voters of Michigan. “The unconstitutional barriers to absentee voting in Michigan need to be removed as they hamper participation in the democratic process and go against the will of the people.” 

Under a century-old Michigan election law, an absentee ballot is not counted unless a local clerk receives it by 8 p.m. on Election Day. However, Proposal 3 clearly requires clerks to count absentee ballots postmarked on or before Election Day.

The lawsuit also asserts that absentee ballots must be available to voters 40 days prior to the date of an election. The language in Proposal 3 is clear – voters have a right to receive an absentee ballot starting on the 40th day before an election, which is currently not strictly enforced. 

Further, clerks must immediately process absentee ballot applications, which is not currently occurring. State law requires applications to be processed immediately which should be within 24 hours. 

Finally, Proposal 3 gave voters the unconditional right to vote. This means the state of Michigan should pay for the postage incurred by voters returning their ballots.  

“Proposal 3 needs to be implemented and enacted the way it was written, which is what voters approved,” Schlitt said. “The way our elections are conducted must be consistent with Proposal 3, especially ahead of these upcoming elections to prevent the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of voters.” 

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