In the latest advance for election integrity, the Republican National Committee (RNC) just won its lawsuit against Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson for restricting the rights of poll challengers.
As previously reported, before Michigan’s Aug. 2 primary, Benson issued last-minute guidance limiting poll challengers’ ability to oversee local elections. This guidance included the superfluous addition of a form to apply to be a challenger, creating an artificial deadline for when poll challengers may be appointed, restricting who poll challengers can communicate with, and banning the use of electronic devices in absentee ballot counting areas.
The lawsuit alleges that by issuing such guidance “without any formal rule-making or process,” Benson violated Michigan’s Administrative Procedures Act.
Michigan Court of Claims Judge Brock Swartzle agreed with the RNC and invalidated the new guidelines. Benson and the state’s elections director, Jonathan Brater, must now rescind the guidelines or revise them to comply with Michigan election law. Swartzle also found that some of the provisions were at odds with Michigan’s election code.
“Jocelyn Benson not only disregarded Michigan election law in issuing this guidance, she also violated the rights of political parties and poll challengers to fully ensure transparency and promote confidence that Michigan elections are run fairly and lawfully,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in an emailed press release. “This ruling is a massive victory for election integrity, the rule of law, and Michigan voters.”
Benson plans on appealing the ruling, according to her office.
“The Michigan Bureau of Elections has always provided clear and detailed instruction for interaction among all participants to ensure legal compliance, transparency, and equal treatment of all voters,” Jake Rollow, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s Office, told the Detroit Free Press.
Benson has a history of supporting restrictions on poll challengers, a tactic used to decrease citizen oversight in local elections. She’s also known for padding Michigan’s voter rolls with ineligible voters and refusing to clean them. During the chaotic 2020 presidential election, Benson played a crucial role in making last-minute changes to Michigan election law to boost Democratic voter turnout, helping to swing the state in favor of Joe Biden.
This win by the RNC follows another legal victory in North Carolina, where a judge ruled in favor of the RNC in a lawsuit seeking to protect the rights of poll watchers.