Dems Get Another Win as Michigan Courts Say Mail Ballots Received After Election Day Must Count

The votes will likely skew Democratic in a state President Trump won by 11,000 votes in 2016.
September 18, 2020, 4:12pm
Demario Thurmond, 23, staff with the Detroit Department of Elections collects absentee ballots from a voter during Michigan Primary in Detroit, Michigan on Tuesday, August 4, 2020.

A Michigan court made a major change to the state’s election rules on Friday, ruling that ballots sent before Election Day should count even if they’re not received until days afterward.

The Michigan Court of Claims ruled that all ballots postmarked by November 2, the day before Election Day, will count this year as long as they’re received by the state’s deadline for canvassing results, a full two weeks after the election.

That’s a major ruling in a key battleground state that could mean tens of thousands more ballots are counted in a state that President Trump won by just 11,000 votes in 2016. And those votes will likely skew Democratic, as Trump’s attack on mail voting has made GOP voters less likely to vote by mail. Polls show Democrats are much more likely to utilize mail voting this election in Michigan and nationally.

The court ruling also gave Democrats another win, allowing people to designate someone to help them vote by mail in the last three days before the election — a ruling that could let both parties organize to collect ballots ahead of Election Day.

The case was brought by the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA.

“We have won yet another important victory for voters in the state of Michigan,” said Priorities USA Chairman Guy Cecil. “We are encouraged by the fact that the courts in Michigan have repeatedly taken the side of the people. By eliminating both the voter assistance ban and an arbitrary ballot receipt deadline, the court has made it clear that all Michiganders should be able to exercise their right to vote without restriction. I am hopeful that we will see similar victories for democracy in the weeks to come.”

In a separate Thursday ruling, the court gave Democrats another win by striking down a state law that made it illegal to pay people to drive others to the polls.

The one thing the court didn’t give Democrats in these rulings was their request that the state pay for the postage for voters to return their ballots. Voters will have to find their own stamp to vote by mail in the state.

This ruling could boost Democrats in the state. But it also slows down the vote-counting process. Since votes that come in even two weeks after the election will now count, if the state is especially close, the final result could take weeks to be processed, even if there aren't legal challenges from either candidate.

The ruling comes a day after Democrats won a similar court victory in Pennsylvania, another key state in the presidential election. Votes in both states will now be counted after Election Day.