Michigan joined the growing list of states that will allow ballots to be accepted after the polls close on Nov. 3 for the 2020 presidential election, amid an ongoing national debate surrounding the efficiency of the U.S. Postal Service.
Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens ruled Friday that Michigan voters will now have their ballots counted in the general election for up to 14 days following Nov. 3., so long as they are postmarked by the second of November.
“In light of delays attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic, mail delivery has become significantly compromised, and the risk for disenfranchisement when a voter returns an absent voter ballot by mail is very real,” wrote Stephens in her Friday order.
Stephens highlighted evidence that was supplied to the court showing massive delays in the U.S.P.S. system during the August primary elections, where thousands of ballots were submitted well before the deadline but were not counted due to inefficiencies in the mail system.
The court ruling comes amid a national U.S.P.S. controversy that has become a partisan issue in Washington.
Congressional Democrats have opened an investigation into the recent reports of delayed services, along with the removal of facility sorting machines and mailboxes.
The House passed a bill that would grant $25 billion in temporary funding to the U.S.P.S. to assist with the increased mail load through the election. The bill has been pushed through to the Senate where it sits awaiting a vote -- though the White House has already said they would veto any such bill.
GOP lawmakers and the Trump administration have said there is nothing wrong with the U.S.P.S., calling Democrat’s recent investigation a “conspiracy theory.”
“These risks are not merely hypothetical, because over 6,400 otherwise valid absent voter ballots were rejected in the August 2020 primary election because they were received after the statutory deadline,” Stephens wrote in her Friday decision.
Adding that the “ballot receipt deadline is, as applied, an impermissible restriction on the self-executing right to vote by absent voter ballot.”
The judge also addressed the issue of “voter fraud” caused by mail-in ballots, a fear that President Trump has perpetuated in recent weeks, claiming that mail-in ballots are the greatest threat to the 2020 presidential election.
“Unsolicited Ballots are uncontrollable, totally open to ELECTION INTERFERENCE by foreign countries, and will lead to massive chaos and confusion!” Trump tweeted Thursday.
Though Twitter flagged his message with a blue exclamation mark, warning of “misleading” content, and in turn directed users to a link that says, “Learn how voting by mail is safe and secure.”
“One of the issues in this case concerns evidence—or lack thereof—of voter fraud and threats to election integrity associated with absent voter ballots,” Stephens wrote.
The judge pointed to evidence provided by plaintiffs in the case and found that cases of voter fraud were “rare” and the concern “exaggerated.”
“The documentary evidence in this case reveals that the incidences of voter fraud and absentee ballot fraud are minimal and that the fears of the same are largely exaggerated,” she said.
Michigan is now one of 19 other states and the District of Columbia that permit ballots to be counted after the polls close on Nov. 3.
Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Michigan are all swing states which voted red in the 2016 election – they also all will accept postmarked ballots that arrive after Election Day.
Trump won in Michigan by less than a half a percentage point over his opponent, meaning he beat Hillary Clinton by just over 11,000 votes.
Friday’s extension could mean that more votes are able to be counted than in 2016.
Trump needs to hold onto these swing states that voted for him during the last election if he wants to hold onto the presidency.