RNC sues Michigan Sec. of State Benson over last-minute restrictions on poll challengers

by WorldTribune Staff, October 6, 2022

The Republican National Committee (RNC) on Monday filed a lawsuit against Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson for issuing last-minute guidance restricting the ability of Michigan residents to oversee their local elections.

The lawsuit alleges that, before Michigan’s Aug. 2 primary, Benson issued last-minute guidance that conflicts with Michigan election law regarding poll challengers.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson

The RNC seeks to stop Benson’s guidance from going into effect for the November midterms.

According to the lawsuit, the guidance includes:

• Creating a last-minute new credential form for poll challengers, adding another barrier to citizen oversight.

• Creating an artificial deadline for when poll challengers can be appointed, i.e., challengers can be appointed up until Election Day, but not on the day itself. This means same-day election challengers could be rejected by election officials, despite Michigan law imposing no such requirement.

• Restricting which poll workers the challengers can communicate with (under Michigan law, election challengers can speak with any election inspector) and restricting the potential grounds for challenges.

• Prohibiting the possession of certain electronic devices — “capable of sending or receiving information” — in absentee ballot counting areas, despite no such prohibition in Michigan election law.

In issuing such last-minute guidance “without any formal rulemaking or process,” Benson violated Michigan’s Administrative Procedures Act by merely uploading the guidance onto the Michigan secretary of state’s website, the lawsuit alleges.

Benson has been accused of violating this particular state law before. In March 2021, State Court of Claims Judge Christopher Murray overruled Benson’s instructions to Michigan election clerks to presume the accuracy of absentee ballot signatures because she did not go through the proper rule-making process when issuing the guidance.

The RNC has also sued North Carolina’s State Board of Elections for similar efforts to restrict poll watchers in violation of state election law.

“Volunteers across the political spectrum have a right to be poll challengers, and election laws exist to be followed — not subverted by Democrat officials at the last minute,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a press release.

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