When a Michigan judge ruled last week that a state official violated the law by arbitrarily modifying rules on mail-in voting, he went a long way toward validating one of the primary arguments raised by the Trump campaign’s post-election legal challenges.
Michigan Court of Claims Chief Judge Christopher Murray, according to Breitbart, ruled in favor of Democrats. When Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson released “guidance” on how absentee ballots should be evaluated, she violated the state’s Administrative Procedures Act. “Since the guidance issued by the Secretary of State on October 6, 2020, with respect to signature matching requirements was issued in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.
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“The Administrative Procedures Act allows state agencies adopting a regulation to help enforce state law to go through months of public notices, drafts, impact assessments, public comment, and public hearings,” according to the Detroit News. Of course, Benson was not involved in all of this.
According to Breitbart, Benson’s “guidance” stated that “slight similarities” between absentee ballot signatures is enough for a vote counter to rule “in favor of finding that the voter’s signature was correct.”
Benson’s “guidance” is more like an order mandating that nearly all ballots be counted — regardless of their signature — as illustrated by the examples cited in the decision.
For example, according to Benson’s guidance, signature analysis “begins with the assumption that” the signatures are legitimate, whether on the application or on the ballot envelope.
“Furthermore, the form instructs clerks to treat the [absent voter] application or return envelope signature as legitimate if it has any redeeming qualities in comparison to the signature on file. (Underlining in the original.)” Murray wrote.
“‘Redeeming qualities’ are described as “similar distinctive flourishes” and “more matching features than nonmatching features,” among other things. Murray made a case.
“Signatures can only be deemed questionable if they vary ‘in several, important, and apparent respects from the signature on file,’ according to the guidelines. (The focus is mine.) ‘[W]henever practicable,’ election officials were to overcome ‘[s]light dissimilarities’ in favor of determining the validity of the voter’s signature.”
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Murray wrote in his ruling, “The presumption is found nowhere in state law.”
“The obligatory presumption is a substantive directive that adds to the pertinent signature-matching requirements, rather than merely guidance and direction.”
Murray also stated that this was a legislative concern, not one involving a particular government official or agency.
“Nowhere in this state’s election law has the Legislature stated that signatures are to be considered authentic, nor did the Legislature mandate that signatures be accepted so long as the application or return envelope has any redeeming quality as opposed to the signature on file,” he wrote in his decision. Policy determinations like the one at hand — which tilts the scales in favor of the authenticity of a signature — should be made in accordance with duly promulgated laws under the [Administrative Procedures Act] or by the Legislature.”
Allegan County Clerk Bob Genetski originally filed the complaint, alleging that Benson’s “guidance” on mail-in ballots was nothing more than a “mandatory directive requiring local election officials to extend a presumption of validity to all signatures on absent voter ballots,” according to Breitbart.
According to the Detroit News, the Michigan Republican Party applauded the decision, but noted that it came far too late to make a significant difference.
“It was clear from the start that the secretary of state had broken election law by ordering local clerks to neglect their constitutional duty to compare absentee ballot signatures,” Ted Goodman said.
While the state Democratic primary was mostly meaningless given Joe Biden’s lead over Bernie Sanders at the time — both in terms of delegates and polls in the states — a crucial seat on the state Supreme Court was on the ballot, and “long lines were seen in cities like Milwaukee, which had just five polling places open,” according to The New York Times.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading expert on pandemic practices, told Only the News in August that in-person voting could be performed safely.
“I don’t see why that wouldn’t be the case if handled carefully and in accordance with the guidelines,” he said.
This may seem to be a tangent, but it isn’t. Conservatives in general, and the Trump campaign in particular, argued early on that mass mail-in voting was wasteful and prone to irregularities, issues that were compounded by states breaching their own rules, ostensibly in the name of COVID-19’s exigencies.
The simple collection of facts became muddled in the aftermath of the election for reasons that don’t need to be repeated; otherwise, we’ll be here all morning and end up with migraines. However, suffice it to say that the left used the opportunity to delegitimize any questions about the 2020 election’s behavior.