Michigan’s Lax Ballot Signature Guidance Violates the Constitution


A Michigan judge has ruled that guidance from the state’s Democrat Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, dictating that election officials must presume the validity of absentee ballot signatures, is unconstitutional. The ruling comes following a lawsuit from the Michigan Republican Party and the Allegan County clerk, as well as the Republican National Committee, against the Secretary of State’s office, alleging that the guidance illegally presumed the validity of such signatures.

In 2020, Benson issued a guidance memo instructing local election officials to presume validity for voters’ signatures on absentee-ballot applications and absentee ballots. The original guidance was later modified by the state Department of State, which removed the prescriptive language requiring officials to presume validity, but inexplicably allowed the word “valid” to appear in the new guidance language.

Despite this, on December 22, 2023, Benson published new guidance, which reignited the controversy by resuming the provision that mandates a “presumption of validity” for voter signatures. The latest guidance maintained that “voter signatures are entitled to an initial presumption of validity.”

As a result, the Republicans and other plaintiffs filed the lawsuit, contending that the guidance impermissibly presumed the validity of votes. Judge Christopher Yates heard the case and ruled on Wednesday that the guidance from Benson was, indeed, unconstitutional. According to his ruling, the Michigan constitution requires a simple signature comparison without any preconception of validity.

Yates also issued a declaratory judgment, finding that “all presumption language contained in the guidance manual for dealing with absentee-ballot applications and envelopes” was illegitimate. Notably, the judge upheld a relevant section of the state administrative code, allowing election officials to provide possible explanations for differences in signatures, although this may have limited uses.

Separately, two groups have announced plans to challenge a May 2022 manual issued by Benson, citing violations of both the Michigan Election Law and the Administrative Procedures Act during its promulgation. The Michigan Supreme Court will convene a special session on June 18 to hear these appeals.

Brianna Lyman
Brianna Lyman
Elections correspondent. Weekly guest on Newsmax. Also seen on Fox Nation.

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