There’s nothing more frustrating than a last-minute rules change.
But that’s exactly what voters face after a three-judge panel at the Michigan Court of Appeals decided to overturn a lower court’s decision about how and when absentee votes should be counted.
The Friday afternoon ruling effectively prohibits elections clerks from counting any mailed ballots that are postmarked before Election Day but arrive after polls close.
The judges reversed a lower court ruling that would’ve allowed clerks to count any ballots postmarked prior to the election, but because of mail delays, are dropped in elections officials’ hands during the 14 day window following Election Day when officials must certify results.
The ninth-hour decision means voters should drop their ballots in the mail by the end of the day Monday to ensure they arrive in local clerks’ hands by the new Election Day deadline, according to a Friday evening statement released by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.
Benson said anyone who can’t get their ballot in the mail Monday, should make plans to hand deliver their choices either to a clerk’s office or into one of the secure drop boxes they operate.
The decision — a pretty substantial deadline change for voters who want to cast mailed ballots — is only the latest in a passel of policy shifts voters face nationwide. It’s also a ridiculously late change that jeopardizes many voters’ access to the upcoming election.
The legal wrangling we’ve witnessed during the past month in states across the country has further politicized what should be the most apolitical function of our democracy.
There are reasons for restrictions that keep political operatives a safe distance from the polls. And there are plenty of reasons we all should want politics removed from the mechanisms that allow us to cast absentee ballots.
Yet here we are.
The still-unfolding court wrangling around absentee voting regulations in Michigan is nothing but political.
The parties have taken it upon themselves to work the courts to either boost or suppress absentee voter turnout — whichever they believe will help their team at the polls.
It’s a sad state of affairs, really.
And the end result isn’t a more safe, secure or reliable election. No, the winners and losers now being decided in state courts are of little or no importance when compared to the damage they cause.
Damage to our confidence in our elections.
So, as we all look forward to Election Day, toward exercising our democratic rights through what should be an apolitical mechanism, we all must plan ahead.
No matter what party, candidate or ballot issue you support, we believe every Michigander should exercise their right to weigh in on Election Day. And we’re less than impressed by any political wrangling that makes that process more difficult.
So we want to take this opportunity to remind our neighbors, friends and community to make a plan to ensure their vote counts, regardless of what shenanigans unfold in the courts during the next two weeks.
After all, Election Day is our opportunity to steer our democracy. And no politician or court has a right to take that power from us.