Few absentee ballots were rejected by Michigan ballot counters after Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) changed the evaluation rules, a move declared illegal by a Michigan judge last week.
WDIV reported in December that just 15,302 of the state’s 3.3 million general election absentee votes were not accepted.
“Most rejected ballots were not accepted due to arriving too late, voters moving to a different Michigan jurisdiction after their vote was cast or voters casting ballots while alive but dying before Election Day,” according to the news station.
Votes rejected related to signatures:
- No signature: 1,852 ballots
- Signature did not match: 1,400 ballots
WDIV said just .04 percent — or one in every 2,357 absentee ballots — were rejected because a counter determined the signature on the ballot did not match one on file.
Despite an increase in absentee balloting from the August primary to the November general election, “the rate of rejection for signature issues fell between August and November from 0.14 percent to 0.1 percent.”
Breitbart News reported the rules Benson unilaterally created were deemed illegal by Michigan Court of Claims Chief Judge Christopher Murray March 9.
Benson issued “guidance” in early October indicating “slight similarities” in signatures on absentee ballots should lead a counter to decide “in favor of finding that the voter’s signature was valid.”
Murray ruled Benson violated the law “because the guidance issued by the Secretary of State on October 6, 2020, with respect to signature matching standards was issued in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).”
“Policy determinations like the one at issue — which places the thumb on the scale in favor of a signature’s validity — should be made pursuant to properly promulgated rules under the APA or by the Legislature,” Murray ruled more than four months after the election.
“I’m glad the court sees Secretary of State Benson’s attempts at lawmaking for what they are — clear violations of her authority,” Michigan state Rep. Matt Hall (R) said in a statement.
“If she wants to make changes like these, she needs to work with the Legislature or properly promulgate them through the laws we have on the books — in this case the Administrative Procedures Act,” he said.
Murray’s ruling came after Allegan County Clerk Bob Genetski sued Benson and state Director of Elections Jonathan Brater over Benson’s order, which Hall described as a “mandatory directive requiring local election officials to apply a presumption of validity to all signatures on absent voter ballots.”
According to the suit, Genetski argued, “The presumption contained in the guidance issued by defendant Benson will allow invalid votes to be counted.”
Ballotpedia reported nationally the amount of rejected absentee ballots increased from 2016 to 2018 — from one percent to 1.4 percent.
Of all disqualified ballots, 27.5 percent were rejected over “non-matching signature” in 2016, while that number declined in 2018 to 15.8 percent.
In Michigan, the subset of rejected ballots due to mismatched signatures was 9.1 percent in 2020.