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Judge Rules Against Michigan’s Absentee Ballot Signature Presumption Rule

A Michigan court ruled against the state’s top election officials’ recommendations for assessing the validity of absentee ballots in what Republicans are calling a victory for election integrity.

On June 12, Judge Christopher Yates ruled that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Director of Elections Jonathan Brater didn’t follow the state’s election laws when they issued rules presuming signatures attached to absentee ballot applications and submissions were valid.

The order granted partial declaratory relief to the Republican National Committee, the Michigan Republican Party, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and others involved in the case.

Judge Yates, a Michigan appellate judge also serving in the limited-jurisdiction Court of Claims, wrote in his opinion that the initial presumption of validity in signature verification of absentee ballot applications and envelopes mandated by a December 2023 guidance manual is “incompatible with the Constitution and laws of the State of Michigan.”

According to Judge Yates’s order, Ms. Benson issued guidance including a presumption of validity for absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications processed at the local level in 2020. The Michigan Republican Party challenged that move and ultimately won in the Court of Claims.

In December 2022, a new set of rules was issued, which included the “initial presumption of validity.” Moreover, in December 2023, Ms. Benson issued guidance to local election officials “explaining how to conduct signature comparisons on absentee-ballot applications and absentee-ballot envelopes.”

In March, the RNC and allied Republican bodies filed suit against the 2022 rules and the 2023 guidance.

According to Judge Yates’s order, the guidance manual told election officials that “voter signatures are entitled to an initial presumption of validity.” The Republicans challenged that presumption, arguing that it violates Michigan law.

Judge Yates said Ms. Benson and Mr. Brader argued the manual didn’t prescribe a presumption but rather an initial presumption.

“With apologies to Gertrude Stein, however, a presumption is a presumption is a presumption,” Judge Yates wrote. “Whether the guidance manual includes a gentle nudge instead of a hip check, it’s still a foul under Michigan law.”

After the June 13 ruling, RNC chairman Michael Whatley said in a statement that the “covert attempts to sidestep these rules were rightfully rejected by the court.”

Michigan voted for a Republican for the first time since 1988 in 2016 when President Donald Trump carried the Great Lakes State. In 2020, President Joe Biden won the state by about 154,000 votes, according to the Michigan Department of State.

The RNC said the court victory underscores the importance of its ongoing focus on election integrity. Under Mr. Whatley and RNC co-chair Lara Trump, Republicans are pursuing election integrity lawsuits across the country.

The party has ongoing litigation in battleground states such as Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Nevada, and Wisconsin.

The Democratic National Committee calls the RNC’s suits “baseless lawsuits … trying to kick eligible voters off the voter rolls and take down guidance around how clerks conduct signature matching for mail voting ballots.”

  • Jim says:

    Democrats continue to lie, steal, and cheat in order to remain in power. They are selfish and only dedicated in their own self interest and not for the American people. Bunch of SCUMBAGS.

  • Tacitus Kilgore says:
    A voter integrity professional business the RNC needs to use.

  • Zeus Papadopoulos says:

    Easy fix. Absentee ballots issued to 1. Military overseas. 2. Dept of State Foreign Service overseas. 3. Physically unable to go to polls (doctors authorization). 4. Proof of citizenship requirement. 5. Everyone else shows up at the polls and must speak English and show proof of citizenship. There – fixed.



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