DETROIT – The Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature is seeking to intervene in a major court decision that will allow absentee ballots to be counted days after the election.
The House and Senate want to join the case and appeal the decision.
Absentee ballots postmarked by Nov. 2 are eligible to be counted if they arrive within 14 days after the Nov. 3 election, Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens said Friday, noting chronic delays with mail during the coronavirus pandemic.
Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, both Democrats, said they won't appeal and instead will urge the public to submit ballots as soon as possible.
Nessel and Benson “are not protecting the state’s interest in the constitutionality of a Michigan statute. They have abdicated their duty to defend this lawsuit in its entirety, which now falls to the Legislature,” attorney Michael Steinberger said in a court filing Monday.
The judge told state officials to respond by next Monday.
Nessel doesn't oppose the Legislature's attempt to join the case, “but it’s ultimately Judge Stephens’ call,” spokesman Ryan Jarvi said Tuesday.
State law normally requires absentee ballots to be received by the time polls close on Election Day, not days later.
Michigan's absentee ballots will flood local governments after voters in 2018 expanded eligibility. About 2.4 million have been requested so far, which accounts for 35% of registered voters. It's been promoted as a way to avoid crowded polling places, especially with the threat of the coronavirus.
“We want to get as many ballots in by 8 p.m. on Election Day," Benson told The Associated Press. “And if we can do that successfully, we will minimize the number of ballots and votes that do come in in those days that follow.”
AP’s Advance Voting guide brings you the facts about voting early, by mail or absentee from each state: https://interactives.ap.org/advance-voting-2020/