Appeals court: Mass mailing of absent ballot applications OK

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s mass mailing of unsolicited absentee ballot applications to millions of 2020 voters was deemed legal by Michigan’s appeals court, which ruled Wednesday she had “inherent” authority to act under a 2018 constitutional amendment expanding voting rights.

The court upheld a lower judge’s ruling in a 2-1 decision.

“Defendant’s conduct did not interfere with Michigan qualified registered voters’ rights. Ultimately, it is up to each voter to decide whether to vote in person or apply for an absentee ballot,” Judges James Redford and Jonathan Tukel wrote.

Benson, a Democrat, began sending the applications in May to all voters in the battleground state who were not already on permanent absentee ballot lists for the August primary and November general elections, as a way to encourage safe voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lawsuits were filed by Yvonne Black and Nevin Cooper-Keel, Republican candidates for the state House who later lost in the primary, and Robert Davis, an activist and serial litigant.

When Benson announced the mass mailing, she was criticized by President Donald Trump, who wrongly stated that she was sending absentee ballots, not applications.

A record 2.5 million votes were cast in the August primary, including a record 1.6 million absentee ballots that were submitted by mail, at a drop box or in a clerk’s office.