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From Dead Registrants To Inactive Mail Voters, Complaints Highlight Michigan’s Voter Roll Mess

A voter filling out a ballot.
Image CreditSora Shimazaki/Pexels

A conservative legal group appealed a federal court ruling Tuesday that sidelined its efforts to clean Michigan’s voter rolls of 26,000 apparently deceased residents. On the same day, the RNC alleged Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is not cleaning the permanent mail ballot list of 92,000 inactive registrants.

The appellate brief filed by the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) asked the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a decision issued by U.S. District Court Judge Jane Beckering in March. Beckering, a Biden appointee, claimed Michigan makes a good-faith effort to remove ineligible voters from its voter rolls on a “regular and ongoing basis,” and subsequently dismissed the legal group’s lawsuit, which asserted otherwise.

PILF originally sued Benson in November 2021 for her alleged failure to remove roughly 26,000 potentially deceased registrants from the state’s voter registration lists, which the legal group argued constituted a violation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. That law requires state officials to make “a reasonable effort to remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters.”

PILF published a mini-documentary in February showcasing the grave markers of numerous deceased individuals reportedly still included on Michigan’s voter rolls.

In its appeal, PILF noted how its requests to depose Benson and a member of her staff over the alleged shortcomings in Michigan’s voter file were denied by the district court. The group’s attempt to depose ERIC, a third-party organization that works with Michigan on voter list maintenance, was also denied by a magistrate judge and Beckering.

As The Federalist previously reported, the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) is a widely used voter-roll “management” system founded by far-left activist David Becker that places a higher priority on registering new voters than on cleaning up existing voter rolls. The program inflates voter rolls by requiring member states to contact “eligible but unregistered” residents and encourage them to register to vote.

PILF claimed in its appellate brief that Benson “seeks to evade scrutiny by relying on something labeled a ‘program’ to remove deceased registrants, no matter how ineffective” it may be at ensuring accurate voter rolls.

“Indeed, if there was a textbook dispute of material fact under [the NVRA’s] list maintenance obligations, this is it. Yet the district court granted summary judgment to the Secretary,” the appeal reads. “Section 8’s reasonableness requirement does not ask if a state list maintenance program exists, but how it is performing. The proof should be in the pudding, and Michigan’s defense that it has a program, no matter how shoddy, is not what Congress intended or enacted.”

PILF requested the circuit court to reverse Beckering’s decision and rule that Benson “violated the transparency obligations of Section 8.” The legal group also asked the 6th Circuit to reverse the lower court’s denials of discovery — namely, depositions from Benson, her employee, and ERIC — “so the complete picture and truth about the Secretary’s list maintenance programs can be ascertained.”

PILF’s appeal was filed on the same day the Republican National Committee (RNC) announced it had sent a letter to Benson demanding she clean Michigan’s “inaccurate and outdated” permanent mail ballot list, as required by state law. The RNC contended that there are nearly 92,000 inactive voters on this list and that Benson’s Election Officials’ Manual “misstates the legal requirement” that such voters must be removed.

“Because these 91,928 inactive voters have not been removed from the permanent mail ballot list, they ‘must be issued an absent voter ballot’ even though they have moved to a different municipality or even a different state or are otherwise inactive,” the letter reads. “Tens of thousands of absentee ballots will thus be sent to voters at addresses where they no longer reside or to voters who are otherwise ineligible to receive them, creating the potential for thousands of absentee ballots to be cast fraudulently.”

The RNC asked Benson to respond to its inquiry by June 6 explaining how her office “will bring its guidance and practices into compliance with Michigan law regarding removal from the permanent mail ballot list.”

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