Michigan sued for 'undeniable and unjustified' plot to stop people from voting


The lawsuit targets Michigan's signature match requirement for absentee ballots.

Priorities USA, a progressive advocacy group, filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging Michigan's signature match requirement on absentee ballots, the Detroit News reported.

Current law requires election officials to compare the signature of a voter on their absentee ballot with their signature on other government documents. If the official determines the signatures do not match, the ballot is discarded.

However, "no one really knows how Michigan election officials decide whether a signature on an absentee ballot or ballot application is sufficiently similar to the previously designated signature to withstand scrutiny," the lawsuit stated, adding that the "arbitrary and standard-less signature matching laws" have the potential to discard valid ballots.

"The burden that these laws impose on the right to vote is undeniable and unjust," the lawsuit claimed.

"These types of laws are a hidden way voters are disenfranchised," Marc Elias, a voting rights expert and attorney representing Priorities USA, said after the lawsuit was announced.

Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA, called the signature matching law an "unnecessary provision" that had "led to the rejection of countless votes cast by the citizens across Michigan."

"This has compromised the fundamental right to vote while creating unnecessary barriers to the ballot box in the state," Cecil said.

Michigan is not the only state to face challenges to its signature matching law. California recently changed a similar provision, with Secretary of State Alex Padilla explaining that "signatures may change over time or disabilities may make it difficult to sign the ballot properly."

The new law allows election officials to contact voters and give them an opportunity to address the issue.

The Michigan suit comes two days after a group of Democratic organizations filed a lawsuit in North Carolina over a Republican attempt to eliminate the most popular day of early voting. Also on Monday, a state court struck down North Carolina's most recent congressional map over "extreme partisan gerrymanders" that disproportionately favored Republicans.

In mid-October, the Kentucky Democratic Party won a state lawsuit to restore 175,000 voters from an inactive list to the regular voter rolls, weeks before the state's pivotal Nov. 5 election.

Michigan is gearing up to be a battleground state in the 2020 election. Donald Trump carried the state in 2016 by roughly 10,000 votes, or 0.3% of all votes cast. In 2018, the state swung back to supporting Democrats, electing four statewide Democrats, including a Democratic governor, and reelecting Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat, to the Senate.

Cecil took to Twitter to allude that Priorities USA may engage in additional actions beyond this lawsuit in the state.

"This is just the first shoe to drop" in Michigan, he said, adding, "More to come."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.