Saffron Restaurants reservation The Michigan Court of Claims judge says he will rule on absentee ballots after Memorial Day

The Michigan Court of Claims judge says he will rule on absentee ballots after Memorial Day

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A Michigan Court of Claims judge said this week he will quickly rule on a legal challenge to determine election guidelines.

Judge Christopher Yates said he expects to rule in the coming weeks on the challenge to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s guidance on processing and verifying signatures on absentee ballots against signatures on file with election clerks registered.

Benson, a Democrat, says it is necessary to pass a voting rights amendment to the Michigan Constitution, which was adopted in 2022. The Republican National Committee is among the plaintiffs challenging the guidelines.

Assistant Attorney General Heather Meingast represented the Secretary of State in the Court of Claims arguments Monday. She said the guidelines will help local clerks know what to look for when comparing signatures on ballots with what’s on file.

“That’s exactly what this rule does: it fills in some of the gaps, giving clerks some insight into discrepancies and significant differences,” Meingast said. ‘Otherwise you have nothing. There are no guidelines on what constitutes a significant discrepancy.”

The plaintiffs include the RNC, the Republican Party of Michigan, a city clerk and others. They argue that the guidance puts a spin on the rules, leaving too much room for error or mischief.

GOP attorney Robert Avers said the guidelines are unnecessary.

“There are many safeguards built in that prevent disenfranchisement,” he said, adding that the Constitution’s early voting window gives voters and election officials time to correct discrepancies. For example, he said the law requires voters to receive text when an absentee ballot is rejected.

“There’s a lot more work on the front end for election officials, but we’ve also given them 40 days on the front end of an election to start verifying signatures,” he said.

Yates said he expects to have a decision ready within a few weeks, keeping in mind that whatever he decides will likely be appealed by the losing side.

“I will do my very best to get this done before the end of Memorial Day weekend,” the judge said. “I know time is of the essence and I want to make sure that if anyone wants to appeal, you have ample opportunity to do so.”

In just over five weeks, clerks will begin the period of verifying signatures on absentee ballots with a mandatory “reasonable effort” to verify or reject the signature within one business day.