A judge in Michigan has ruled a Democratic state official violated state law by ordering during the 2020 vote count that clerks must assume a signature on an absentee ballot is valid.
The ruling Monday changed no election results but it bolstered the complaints filed by President Trump’s campaign and his allies in battleground states that officials opened the door to fraud by violating safeguards in state election laws.
Many cases argued that the U.S. Constitution grants sole authority to state legislatures to establish election laws.
In the Michigan case, Judge Christopher Murray of the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson broke state law.
The state requires that absentee voters sign an application for the ballot and then sign the return envelope before mailing the ballot.
Signatures that do not “agree sufficiently” are “to be rejected,” the law states.
Constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley noted the case centered on “a core issue raised by the Trump campaign in its election challenges.”
Nearly all of the Trump cases were dismissed on procedural grounds such as standing and timing, and not on the merits.
The Michigan court found, Turley explained, that the instructions on the signature-matching requirements amounted to a “rule” and were subject to the requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act, which Benson ignored.
She ordered that “clerks should presume that a voter’s application or envelope signature is his or her genuine signature,” even though there may be “an apparent mismatch.”
Benson even offered “hypothetical explanations for why signatures on absent voter ballot applications and absent voter ballots might not be an exact match,” the judge wrote.
The judge pointed out that the instructions apparently still are in effect for future elections.
The state had contended that the case was moot because the election was over. Officials also argued that Benson could change the instructions.
But the judge said, “Those issues concern the validity of guidance that is still in effect … or an audit … that, according to the plain text … may be requested after the election has occurred.”
And the judge explained, “Nowhere in this state’s election law has the legislature indicated that signatures are to be presumed valid, nor did the legislature require that signatures are to be accepted so long as there are any redeeming qualities in the application or return envelope signature as compared with the signature on file.
“Here, defendant issued a mandatory directive and required local election officials to apply a presumption of validity to all signatures on absent voter ballot applications and on absent voter ballots. The presumptions if found nowhere in statute.”
Absent compliance, the “‘rule’ is invalid,” the judge said.
A reader of Turley’s website, Steve Witherspoon, asked: “How many of President Trump’s claims about election irregularities, illegal activities of election officials, and fraud have been proven correct now?”
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