The 2020 election battle appears to continue this week with a ruling by Michigan Court of Claims Chief Justice Christopher Murray that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) broke state law when she was ahead of the year’s election 2020 issued new rules for postal voting. The orders concerned instructions on what constitutes a “match” for verification signatures – a key issue that the Trump campaign has raised in its election challenges. There is no evidence that the violation of state law changed the outcome of the state elections, and the court declined to order a new review. However, the court found that Murray should not have issued the orders, in violation of the state’s Administrative Procedures Act.
Benson ordered that employees follow a very deferential standard in favor of voter and scrutiny. The court stated:
The stated purpose of the document in question was to “provide[ ] Standards ”for review Signatures, verification of signaturesand healing is absent or Signatures mismatched. Under one heading The document titled “Signature Verification Procedure” states that signature verification begins with the assumption that “the signature on a missing ballot application or envelope is valid. In addition, the form instructs employees to check whether “there are any redeeming qualities in the [absent voter]Treat the signature of the application or the return envelope compared to the stored signature as the signature valid. “(emphasis in the original). “Redeeming Qualities” are described as including but not be limited to “similar characteristic flourishes” and “more matching features than non-matching” Properties. “Signatures” should be consistentdered questionable “, the instructions only explained If you differ “in several, important and obvious information from the signature in the file. “(Focus in Original). “[W]whenever possible ”, choice Officials were to solve “[s]slight dissimilarities ”in in favor of establishing that the voter’s signature was valid.
The section on signature verification procedures repeats the idea that “employees should assume that a voter [absent voter] The signature of the application or the envelope is real Signature as there are several acceptable reasons that could result in an obvious mismatch. “
The court found that the orders on the The requirements for the signature comparison were a “rule” and should therefore have met the requirements of the APA.
Murray explains, “The presumption is nowhere to be found in state law. The mandatory presumption goes beyond the area of mere advice and guidance and is instead a content guideline that supplements the relevant standards for the conformity of signatures. “
Trump campaign lawyers argued that state officials are usurping the legislature in issuing such guidelines or rule changes prior to the election. This is a decision that supports these objections. The problem, however, was the relationship between such irregularities or illegal orders and any determinative effect on the outcome. The court found that Genetski did not claim that Benson’s policy “caused him to accept a signature he believed to be invalid”.
Trump supporters, while celebrating the finding of illegality, are frustrated that they haven’t ordered additional discoveries to determine such an impact. Murray noticed this, however
“while the law provides for an examination The The law clearly leaves it to the Foreign Minister to dictate the procedures for electoral examinations and requires the Foreign Minister to conduct examinations, as in the prescribed procedures. In other words, there is no support in law for claimants who require an exam to cover the subject of their choice or determine the manner in which an audit will be conducted. “
This will not go over well with many, as it was the Foreign Minister who violated state law in the first place. This would mean that she could break the law and then determine how that violation would be investigated.
Robert Genetski, an Allegan County clerk, and the Michigan Republican Party filed a complaint the same day the order was issued. However, the delay prevented the ruling from being cited in the ongoing pre-certification challenges.
The result is a victory, but not in the form of a substantial reduction in an examination of the application of these matching rules.
Here’s the take: Genetski v Benson, No. 20-216-MM in the Michigan State Court of Claims