A Michigan judge ruled on March 12, that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) violated state law when she issued unilateral absentee balloting rules, confirming a key claim made by the Trump campaign in its legal challenges to the 2020 election, according to Breitbart.
During the 2020 election, Benson issued a number of unilateral orders, including sending absentee ballot applications to all eligible voters. She also issued “guidance” on how to evaluate absentee ballots, which Michigan Court of Claims Chief Judge Christopher Murray found to be in violation of the state’s Administrative Procedures Act.
According to Benson’s advice, when there are “slight similarities” in the signatures on absentee ballot signatures a counter should rule in favor of finding that the voter’s signature was legitimate.
Murray found Benson in breach of the law since the secretary of state’s direction on signature matching requirements released on Oct. 6, 2020, was issued in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).
“I’m glad the court sees Secretary of State Benson’s attempts at lawmaking for what they are—clear violations of her authority,” Michigan state Rep. Matt Hall (R) said in a statement.
“If she wants to make changes like these, she needs to work with the Legislature or properly promulgate them through the laws we have on the books—in this case the Administrative Procedures Act,” he continued.
Murray’s decision came after Allegan County Clerk Bob Genetski filed a complaint against Benson and state Director of Elections Jonathan Brater over Benson’s order, which Hall characterized as a mandatory directive requiring local election officials to give all signatures on absent voter ballots a presumption of validity.
Genetski argued in the suit that the presumption found in defendant Benson’s guidance would allow invalid votes to be counted, but he did not allege that this guidance forced him to accept a signature he claimed was invalid.
The court’s opinion concluded: “…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 as compared with the signature on file. Policy determinations like the one at issue—which places the thumb on the scale in favor of a signature’s validity—should be made pursuant to properly promulgated rules under the APA or by the Legislature.”
In the face of the CCP Virus pandemic, Benson, like other progressive secretaries of state, put a heavy focus on voting by absentee ballot.
According to WWMT News, more than 3.1 million Michigan voters cast absentee ballots out of a total population of 7.7 million.
Benson used $4.5 million from the CARES Act—the initial coronavirus stimulus—in May 2020 to submit absentee ballot applications to all voters, according to Breitbart News.
“By mailing applications, we have ensured that no Michigander has to choose between their health and their right to vote,” Benson said according to NBC 25.
“Voting by mail is easy, convenient, safe, and secure, and every voter in Michigan has the right to do it,” she continued.
Hall noted, “The Legislature is an equal branch of government charged with crafting laws. This is not the role of the Secretary of State, and there is a clear process that must be respected.”
One of the concerns that the Trump campaign and Republicans had that was performed improperly in the 2020 election was the development of signature validation rules without the approval of a legislature.
In court cases around the country, Trump’s campaign and Republicans argued that Article II of the Constitution allows state legislatures to make presidential election laws, and that state election officials and courts lack the power to modify such rules.
Murray’s decision debunks the Democratic myth that Republican legal challenges to 2020 election processes were all frivolous and therefore dismissed by the courts. The lawsuit was first filed on Oct. 6, 2020, just before the presidential election, but it was not settled until March 9, 2021.
In the Court of Claims for the State of Michigan, Genetski v. Benson, No. 20-216-MM, is the case.