Suit seeks to block Michigan restrictions on helping voters

Posted at 11:07 AM, Nov 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-13 11:10:03-05

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Democratic group is challenging Michigan’s restrictions on transporting voters to the polls and helping people apply for absentee ballots, asking a federal judge to declare the laws unconstitutional and to block their enforcement.

The lawsuit, brought late Tuesday, was the second filed in two weeks by Priorities USA, a super PAC that plans to spend millions of dollars to mobilize and turn out voters in the 2020 battleground state. The group’s first suit challenges Michigan laws that require the rejection of an absentee ballot if the voter’s signature does not match what is on file.

The new complaint alleges that the transportation ban conflicts with federal law and that the limit on who can assist in returning absentee ballot applications, particularly now that all voters can cast absentee ballots without an excuse, is not justified.

“The voter transportation ban and the absentee ballot organizing ban each represent a severe burden on Michigan citizens’ ability to vote, especially minority voters, voters who are disabled, seniors and low-income voters,” the lawsuit says.

In Michigan, it is a misdemeanor to hire drivers to take voters to polling places unless they physically cannot walk. Because of the ban, Michigan was the only state in which ride-hailing company Uber did not offer discounted rides to the polls on Election Day in November 2018, according to the complaint.

It contends that there is no rational basis for the prohibition because it already is a crime to buy votes, and the law arbitrarily excludes those who cannot drive due to other disabilities from being assisted.

The ban on absentee ballot organizing bars non-family members such as neighbors, political campaigns and get-out-the-vote organizations from helping to deliver an application unless the third party is registered to vote and the voter has affirmatively requested his or her assistance.

The defendant in the case is Democratic Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, whose office had no immediate comment Wednesday. The complaint seeks to stop her from enforcing the restrictions.

“Priorities USA is fully committed to fighting against suppressive voting laws that make it increasingly difficult for marginalized and underrepresented communities to vote in Michigan and around the country,” Guy Cecil, the PAC’s chairman, said in a written statement. “This new litigation is a continuation of Priorities’ commitment to ensuring that all Americans who are eligible to vote have the ability to do so.”