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Michigan Court Shoots Down Dems’ Attempt to Extend Vote Deadline by Two Weeks

'Although those factors may complicate plaintiffs’ voting process, they do not automatically amount to a loss of the right to vote absentee...'

Not long after the state Supreme Court declared that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus lockdown policies were unconstitutional, a state appeals court handed Michigan Democrats another defeat by rejecting their attempt to extend ballot deadlines a full two weeks after Election Day.

Absentee ballots must arrive by Election Day to be counted, the Michigan Court of Appeals said Friday, blocking a 14-day extension that had been ordered by a lower court and embraced by key Democratic officials in the battleground state.

Any changes must rest with the Legislature, not the judiciary, the appeals court judges said in a 3-0 opinion.

Absentee ballot extensions in Wisconsin and Indiana have also been overturned by higher courts.

Michigan’s ability to handle a flood of ballots will be closely watched in a state that was narrowly won by President Donald Trump in 2016.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, last week said 2.7 million people had requested absentee ballots, a result of a change in law that makes them available to any voter.

Michigan law says absentee ballots must be turned in by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be valid. But Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens had ordered that any ballots postmarked by Nov. 2 could be counted if they arrived within two weeks after the Nov. 3 election.

Although elected judges in the state are nominally nonpartisan, the Detroit-based Stephens has donated money in the past to a state Democrat committee.

Stephens claimed there was “unrefuted evidence” about mail delivery problems because of the coronavirus pandemic. She alleged that more than 6,400 ballots arrived too late to be counted in the August primary.

The appeals court, however, said the pandemic and any delivery woes “are not attributable to the state.”

“Although those factors may complicate plaintiffs’ voting process, they do not automatically amount to a loss of the right to vote absentee,” the court said, noting that hundreds of special boxes have been set up across Michigan.

The court also reversed another portion of Stephens’ decision, which would have allowed a non-family member to deliver a completed ballot in the final days before the election if a voter consented.

Benson and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, also a Democrat, had declined to appeal Stephens’ rulings, leaving it to the Republican-controlled Legislature to intervene.

“Happy to see this unanimous ruling to uphold the integrity of our elections process and reject judicial overreach,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey tweeted.

The case was heard by appeals court judges Michael Gadola, Mark Boonstra and Thomas Cameron. All were appointed by Rick Snyder, a Republican, when he was governor and then subsequently elected.

The lawsuit was filed by a group called Michigan Alliance for Retired Americans, which is affiliated with the Teamsters labor union.

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