Federal Judge Rejects Republican Challenge to Michigan Election Laws

The judge issued the order on April 10, saying the plaintiffs lacked standing.
Federal Judge Rejects Republican Challenge to Michigan Election Laws
Empty envelopes of opened vote-by-mail ballots for the presidential primary are stacked on a table at King County Elections in Renton, Wash., on March 10, 2020. (Jason Redmond/AFP)
Jack Phillips

A federal judge on April 10 rejected a Republican-backed lawsuit targeting Michigan election laws approved in recent years.

District Judge Jane Beckering, a Biden-nominated judge, wrote that the plaintiffs—11 Republican state lawmakers—were not able to prove they were injured by the laws. The lawmakers had sued Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state election officials, saying that 2022 voter-initiated changes to voting laws should be declared invalid because only the state Legislature should be able to regulate them.

“Plaintiffs’ asserted injury—the deprivation of the power to cast a binding vote—is neither concrete nor particularized because it is shared by every single member of the Michigan Legislature,” the judge wrote.

The legislators, Judge Beckering noted, “have not met their burden at the pleading stage to demonstrate injury-in-fact and have concomitantly failed to demonstrate ... standing.”

The lawmakers targeted two ballot initiatives that allowed for universal absentee ballots and universal early voting, along with other changes. The two ballot initiatives brought no-reason absentee voting, in-person early voting, and other election changes to Michigan, and both were supported by a wide majority of voters.

The two initiatives, which were brought on state ballots in 2018 and 2022, passed with more than 60 percent of the vote. They included rules that allow for same-day voter registration, absentee voting, and nine days of early voting before election day.

The lawmakers argued that the U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause allows for legislatures to regulate the places, times, and manner to hold federal elections and argued that the ballots infringed on the legislature’s rights to regulate elections.

After the ruling, state Sen. Jim Runestad, a Republican, said the group and their lawyers who brought the lawsuit were not surprised by the federal judge’s order on April 10. He said the order is “off base” and that they plan to appeal so that the case can affect the November 2024 elections.

“As I understand it, the individual Legislature does have standing in a case like this, so it will be appealed,” he told a local Michigan media outlet. “Everyone still feels pretty good about it, and we want to get the appeal rolling in time to impact the upcoming elections.”

Democratic state officials, including Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, had argued that the legislators did not have standing to bring their challenge. She hailed the judge’s ruling.

“This lawsuit was absurd and baseless from its inception, and I am glad the Court saw the [plaintiffs’] obvious lack of standing,” Ms. Nessel said in a statement. “Our democracy is participatory, and in Michigan citizen initiatives and referendums have long played a vital role in making our state government better reflect the values of our people. I am proud to stand up for democracy in Michigan, and will robustly defend our voters’ rights to their own constitution, and to work democratically to create the State and future they dream of.”

Separate Lawsuit Filed

After the 2020 election, Republicans asserted that there were enough irregularities in Michigan, a key battleground state, to have swung it away from former President Donald Trump.

About a month ago, the Republican National Committee sued Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, to trim down the state’s voter rolls. The suit argued that the state is violating a federal voting law that mandates that officials maintain clean registration rolls.

“At least 53 Michigan counties have more active registered voters than they have adult citizens who are over the age of 18. That number of voters is impossibly high,” the lawsuit reads. “An additional 23 counties have active-voter registration rates that exceed 90 percent of adult citizens over the age of 18. That figure far eclipses the national and statewide voter registration rate in recent elections.”
Ms. Benson, in response, claimed that the lawsuit is baseless and said that Michigan has “done more in the last five years than was done in the previous two decades to remove deceased voters and ineligible citizens from [state] voting rolls and ensure their accuracy.” About 700,000 voter names have been removed from the rolls in recent years, she said.

“Let’s call this what it is: a PR campaign masquerading as a meritless lawsuit filled with baseless accusations that seek to diminish people’s faith in the security of our elections. Shame on anyone who abuses the legal process to sow seeds of doubt in our democracy,” she said.

Polls have suggested that, as in previous elections, Michigan will be a pivotal state in deciding who will become the next president. A survey released in March by Quinnipiac University shows President Trump leading President Joe Biden by about 5 percentage points in the state in a five-way race that includes several third-party candidates.

In a head-to-head matchup, the former president would get 48 percent support, compared with President Biden’s 45 percent support, according to the poll.

Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X: https://twitter.com/jackphillips5