It’s the second significant ruling extending the typical deadline in a crucial swing state, boosting the possibility that Americans won’t know who won the presidency on election night as an unprecedented number of voters are allowed to vote by mail.
Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens wrote in her 21-page ruling that “for the avoidance of doubt, an absent voter ballot that is postmarked by no later than November 2, 2020, and received within 14 days after the election, is eligible to be counted.”
While many states are allowing wider mail-in voting because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2018 that lets anybody vote by mail, also known as absentee voting.
But state law still rejected any absentee ballots not delivered to election officials by 8 p.m. on Election Day, plaintiffs, including the Michigan Alliance for Retired Americans argued in a lawsuit filed in June.
“Consistent with the emergency relief adopted by a Wisconsin federal court—and approved by the U.S. Supreme Court—election officials should be required to count ballots postmarked by Election Day and received for up to 14 days after the election to allow for the delivery of delayed absentee ballots,” they argued.
Stephens, who was appointed to her current position by the Michigan Supreme Court, granted the injunction sought by the plaintiffs in the new ruling.
“The evidence in this case stands uncontroverted and establishes that the mail system is currently fraught with delays and uncertainty in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she wrote.
Michigan’s Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat who was named in the lawsuit, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The state struggled to conduct the primary election earlier this year, ending up rejecting over 10,000 mail-in ballots.
Benson said this month that her office may need up to a week to count ballots received by mail, a timeline that could draw out even longer with the new order.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Thursday that mail-in ballots received up to three days after the election would count, provided they were postmarked or believed to be postmarked by 8 p.m. on election night.
Donald Trump’s shocking 2016 win came in part because of wins in Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Trump edged Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by about 44,000 votes in Pennsylvania. In Michigan, he won by about 10,000 votes.