Davis v. Benson

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At a Glance

CLC filed an amicus brief on behalf of Voters Not Politicians (VNP) in support of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s decision to mail all registered voters absentee ballot applications. Making the process of obtaining absentee ballots simple and straightforward will facilitate safe voting for Michiganders, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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President Donald Trump threatened to withhold federal funding from Michigan over their pursuit of a mail-in voting expansion. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said in May 2020 that all registered voters would be mailed applications for absentee ballots for the state’s August and November elections.

Since 2018, every eligible voter in...

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About this Case

On May 19, 2020 Secretary Benson announced her decision to mail absentee ballot applications to all registered voters, increasing accessibility for people looking to vote by mail. Shortly thereafter, policy activist Robert Davis brought a state lawsuit seeking to challenge the authority of Secretary Benson to do so. If successful, the lawsuit would make absentee voting less accessible, less convenient, and may force voters into making a choice that would put themselves or family members at risk.

Since 2018, every eligible voter in Michigan has a constitutional right to vote absentee, following the passage of a popular ballot measure establishing no-reason absentee voting. There has been a surge of interest in doing as a result of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

Increasing access to absentee ballots by mailing applications directly to eligible voters would help ensure that more Michiganders have the opportunity to make their voices heard. Such a move will strengthen our democracy.

Because of the risk posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, voting by mail is an especially timely reform to protect public health. Health experts agree that social distancing is necessary, so many Michiganders and millions of Americans—especially those over 65 and those with underlying health conditions—are trying to minimize contact with people outside their households. Under these conditions, it is essential that Michiganders have the opportunity to vote safely by mail and from the safety of their own homes. Absentee voting is the safest option for many and in the public interest for all.

Vote by mail has been tried and tested in states across the country; several states vote entirely by mail – from deep red Utah to deep blue Hawaii. The evidence shows it not only provides a secure way of voting that can protect public health and the integrity of our elections, but also ensures the ability to vote so every eligible voter can participate and make their voices heard in a safe way.

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