Judge rules absentee ballots postmarked by Nov. 2 can be counted in election

Election 2020: Voter registration and absentee ballot deadlines for each state
Posted at 10:55 AM, Sep 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-18 14:51:22-04

(WXYZ) — A Michigan judge has ruled that absentee ballots postmarked by Nov. 2 and received within two weeks of the election are allowed to be counted.

Related: How to register to vote in Michigan
Related: Find your polling place in Michigan
Related: How to get an absentee ballot in Michigan
Related: View your sample ballot for the 2020 election

Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens issued the ruling Friday in a case that was brought by the Michigan Alliance for Retired Americans against Jocelyn Benson.

In the ruling, Stephens also said that a voter can have anyone help them return their ballots between the Friday before election day and on the Nov. 3 election day.

Stephens did rule against the lawsuit's request that people shouldn't have to supply their own postage when returning their absentee ballots by mail.

“The evidence in this case stands uncontroverted and establishes that the mail system is currently fraught with delays and uncertainty in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Stephens said.

"No eligible voter should be disenfranchised through no fault of their own for exercising their right to vote by mail," Benson said in a statement. "The court’s decision recognizes many of the unique challenges that the pandemic has created for all citizens and will reduce the potential for voter disenfranchisement due to mail delays. However we still want voters to make a plan to vote now, and not wait until the last minute if they want to vote by mail. That’s why we will continue to strongly encourage voters to request and return their absentee ballots as soon as possible."

The judge's order could cause a delay in declaring winners in some races. President Donald Trump won Michigan by only 10,000 votes in 2016.

Separately, a federal judge on Thursday blocked Michigan's longstanding ban on transporting voters to the polls.

It's a misdemeanor to hire drivers to take voters to polling places unless they're unable to walk. Michigan was the only state where ride-hailing company Uber did not offer discounted rides to the polls on Election Day in November 2018, according to the lawsuit.