Registration confusion leads to lawsuit

By Graham Jaehnig


HOUGHTON — Michigan Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson, was sued in federal court Wed. for failing to remove deceased registrants from voter rolls. The suit was filed by the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF). The suit also alleges failure to provide documentation regarding efforts to remove those registrants from the rolls.

According to PILF’s website, the Foundation’s analysis reveals that as of August 2021, there were over 25,975 deceased registrants on Michigan’s voter rolls. Of those 25,975:

– 23,663 registrants have been dead for five years or more.

– 17,479 registrants have been dead for at least a decade.

– 3,956 registrants have been dead for at least 20 years.

PILF said that before filing the suit on Wednesday, it notified Benson’s office of its findings of deceased registrants on the state’s voter rolls in September 2020 and November 2020 and that she violated the National Voter Registration Act.

Michigan is in violation of Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 which requires officials to “conduct a general program that makes a reasonable effort to remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters,” PILF alleges.

“This case is about ensuring that deceased registrants are not receiving ballots,” PILF President J. Christian Adams said in a statement. “For over a year, we’ve shared specific data with the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office about the alarming problem of deceased registrants on Michigan’s voter rolls. Secretary Benson has done nothing to resolve the problem and is even refusing to hand over public documents related to these failures. The failure to remove deceased registrants creates an opportunity for fraud and makes Michigan’s elections less secure.”

Founded in 2012 by Adams, Public Interest Legal Foundation is a 501(c)(3)Indiana-based law firm, and is considered a conservative organization that has been active in the election integrity space for years.

Adams is also the founder of the Election Law Center, PLLC. He served from 2005 to 2010 in the Voting Section at the United States Department of Justice.

The Secretary of State’s Office, on its michigan.gov page titled Fact Checks, stated that: Ahead of and following the 2020 general election, Michiganders were inundated with more information about the administration of the election than ever before. Much of this information was inaccurate. Whether spread intentionally or unintentionally, false information about elections results led to confusion and doubt among our citizenry, and a reduction of faith in Michigan’s electoral process. This is dangerous for our democracy.

“Applications sent to registered voters who have died do not result in a ballot being sent to the voter, because the dead voter cannot return the application with a signature, let alone one that matches the signature the clerk has on file with their voter registration.

“If a living voter casts an absentee ballot prior to Election Day and the clerk learns they have died before Election Day, the deceased voter’s ballot is rejected. This resulted in the rejection of thousands of ballots in Michigan’s August Primary and November General elections.”

Following the general election, the page continues, lists began circulating with thousands of names of people who allegedly had votes cast in their name and were allegedly dead.

“However, the lists did not contain enough information to accurately compare them to the Michigan’s voter registration list,” the page states. “Further, when the Bureau of Elections has drawn samples of the voters’ names, and reviewed those names against the voter file, they have not encountered cases showing ballots were actually cast on behalf of deceased individuals. Rather, the confusion is often based on people having similar names, being assigned a placeholder birth year in the voter file when the birth date is not known, or a clerical error by the local clerk.”

In a Thursday article by Scott McClallen, staff reporter for The Center Square, Tracy Wimmer, director of Media Relations, Michigan Department of State, responded to a media request from The Center Square.

“Michigan maintains its voter registration list in accordance with all state and federal laws, including provisions for deceased voters,” Wimmer said. “We do not have further comment on pending litigation.”


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