Democrats have been demanding that vote-by-mail rules need to be loosened for this year’s presidential election. However, a Michigan court just handed them a pair of setbacks.
A Michigan Court of Appeals panel decided Friday in a 3-0 opinion that local clerks in the state must receive all ballots by 8 p.m. on Election Day, The Detroit News reported.
The ruling overturns a lower court decision that required ballots to be accepted for up to two weeks after the polls closed, provided they were postmarked prior to November 3.
In a related case, the judges also overturned a ruling that said third parties were permitted to collect ballots for up to three days before voters go to the polls. Known as “ballot harvesting,” the practice has been condemned by conservatives as an opportunity for fraud.
Mail those ballots now
Following the court’s decision, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson advised voters to have their ballots in the mail by October 19 at the latest.
“With more than 1 million ballots already returned, we’re seeing an incredible amount of enthusiasm from Michiganders excited to participate in our democracy,” Benson said in a statement.
“Voters have more options than ever before for how to register and cast their ballot, and that’s why we’ve been working around the clock to ensure citizens understand those options and can exercise their rights in the way that works best for them,” she added.
Those individuals who are unable to mail their ballots by Monday were instructed to deliver them in person to a local clerk’s office or a designated drop box.
Judges: Court “abused its discretion”
The Detroit Free Press quoted Judges Thomas Cameron, Mark Boonstra, and Michael Gadola as complaining that the lower Court of Claims had earlier “abused its discretion” in extending the deadline by which votes could be counted and allowing for ballot harvesting by third parties.
In his opinion, Judge Cameron pointed out that setting election rules “is the responsibility of our elected policy makers, not the judiciary.”
“To be sure, the pandemic has caused considerable change in our lives, but election officials have taken considerable steps to alleviate the potential effects by making no-reason absent voting easier for the 2020 election,” he continued.
Michigan is considered to be a crucial swing state, and voters there could well determine who the next president will be. In 2016, President Donald Trump became the first Republican to win there since 1988.