LANSING -- The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled this week that absentee ballots must be in the local clerk’s office by Election Day in order to be counted.
The League of Women Voters sued the state in May, arguing that absentee ballots should be allowed to be received after Election Day as long as they are postmarked on or before Election Day.
“We will appeal the Court’s decision to prevent the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters ahead of the August primary and tens of thousands of voters in the November general election, and to ensure voting is accessible and convenient for every registered voter in Michigan,” Christina Schlitt, League president said in a statement.
The League asked the Court of Appeals to require clerks to count absentee ballots postmarked by or on Election Day. But the state argued the deadline was nondiscriminatory and it was a policy decision after Proposal 3 was adopted by the voters in November 2018.
Proposal 3 required sweeping changes to Michigan’s election process, including allowing for no reason absentee voting.
The Court found the restriction was not “a severe burden on the right to vote” and therefore was constitutional.
“...[A] voter is not required to mail his or her absentee ballot. Rather, the voter or an immediate family member may deliver the ballot in person to the city or township clerk, or, if requested, the clerk must pick up the ballot or send an election assistant to pick up the ballot,” the Court said in its opinion.
The ACLU of Michigan was also involved in the lawsuit.
Sharon Dolente, ACLU of Michigan voting rights strategist said in a statement the deadline imposed by the court violates the rights of Michigan residents to submit a ballot during the 40 days before the election.
“This could lead to tens of thousands of voters being disenfranchised this year,” she said.
“We must ensure voters have the full timeline to submit their ballots from home by mail and give Michigan clerks and staff more time to process ballots. This is what Michiganders overwhelmingly voted for when they passed Proposal 3 in 2018.”
The lawsuit had also asked that the state be required to cover the cost of postage for all absentee ballots that are sent in. But the court found that requiring voters to pay postage “is a reasonable, minimal, and nondiscriminatory restriction.”
The Secretary of State’s Office declined to comment.