If Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson gets her way, she will not be removing deceased registrants from her state’s voter rolls anytime soon. Even when a court ordered her to do so, she challenged it.
In August, a U.S. District Court denied Benson’s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit, filed by the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), a conservative law firm committed to election integrity, that would force her to clean Michigan’s voter lists by removing residents who are deceased or no longer live in the state. In the fall of 2020, the group notified Benson of deceased registrants it found on Michigan’s voter lists and her obligation to remove them under the National Voter Registration Act, which requires states to make “a reasonable effort to remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters.”
Despite apparently violating the law, Benson didn’t remove the ineligible registrants. PILF’s ongoing lawsuit seeks to compel Benson to remove nearly 26,000 dead voters from Michigan’s rolls. As The Federalist previously reported:
According to PILF’s own analysis of the 25,975 deceased registrants: 23,663 registrants have been dead for five years or more, 17,479 registrants have been dead for at least a decade, [and] 3,956 registrants have been dead for at least 20 years.
To find dead registrants, PILF purchased Michigan’s voter roll and hired a data analytics expert to check the names against social security records and other publicly available documentation of deceased individuals such as credit reporting agencies, a PILF spokeswoman told The Federalist.
According to records provided to The Federalist by PILF, Pauline Schmainda, who was born in 1908 and died in 1990, is still on Michigan’s voter lists. Eight presidential elections and plenty more federal elections have transpired since her death. You’d think her obituary in the Detroit Free Press would disqualify her from voting in Michigan’s elections, but not according to Benson.
Mary Stislicki, who was born in 1913 and died in 1997, is another name still on the state’s voter rolls. She would be 109 if she were alive today.
Mary Augustyniak is another dead voter still listed on Michigan’s rolls. Born in 1916, Augustyniak would be 107 today, except she died in 1998 — the year then-President Bill Clinton’s impeachment began.
These are just three examples of the thousands of deceased voters PILF has identified on Michigan’s current voter lists. Yet they have not been removed, despite having been dead for many presidential and federal elections. Ineligible registrants filling up voter rolls poses a huge risk for fraud, especially as many states increasingly loosen their voting rules to send out ballots or applications to every registered voter, green-light no-excuse absentee voting, turn Election Day into election month, and collect millions of ballots by mail.
“Secretary Benson is violating federal law by failing to remove deceased registrants from the rolls,” PILF spokeswoman Lauren Bis told The Federalist. “The Foundation’s analysis identified over 25,000 individuals, many of whom passed away over two decades ago. When someone’s death predates the turn of the century, there is no reason he or she should still be on the voter roll. Michiganders deserve better from their Secretary of State.”
PILF and Benson are currently in the discovery process of the lawsuit, or the formal process of exchanging evidence and witness testimony before trial. PILF has successfully litigated against Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Texas, North Carolina, and Minnesota for their failure to clean voter rolls. The conservative law firm recently unveiled an interactive database showing a statistical breakdown of voter roll errors in each state.