Michigan Organization Seeks To Defend Rules Limiting Poll Challengers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, Oct. 13, the Detroit/Downriver Chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (DAPRI) filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit brought by the Republican National Committee, the Michigan Republican Party and a voter challenging a set of 2022 rules pertaining to the appointment, rights and duties of partisan elections challengers (“2022 Election Challenger Instructions”). The Republican plaintiffs sued Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) and the Michigan director of elections alleging that the 2022 Election Challenger Instructions issued by the defendants violate Michigan law, under which political parties are permitted to appoint election challengers to monitor and observe the election process. Notably, these instructions were in place for the state’s August 2022 primary election. Now, however, the Republicans contend that the defendants failed to properly notify both the public and election officials about the rule changes. This lawsuit was consolidated with a similar GOP-backed lawsuit filed by two Republican legislative candidates and three Republicans who served as challengers in the 2022 primary.

According to the complaint, the new instructions are a “significant departure” from prior iterations of the rules regulating election challengers. The Republicans take issues with several of the changes contained in the 2022 Election Challengers Instructions including: a requirement that the written authority to serve as a challenger now “must be on a form promulgated by the Secretary of State;” a stipulation that political parties may only appoint challengers before Election Day, but not on Election Day; a mandate that every polling place “have an election inspector designated as the challenger liaison” and more. 

In seeking to intervene in the lawsuit, DAPRI argues that the 2022 Election Challenger Instructions comply with Michigan law and should remain in place for the upcoming election. Specifically, DAPRI argues that “[t]hese instructions—which were issued five months ago—strike a careful balance between the orderly conduct of elections and transparency into the election process. Plaintiffs’ last-minute effort to tip the scales at the expense of the safety of voters, poll workers, and poll watchers will unquestionably impact DAPRI’s operations and interests.” The organization hopes to defend the challenged instructions, stating that DAPRI “has a significant interest in ensuring that its members who work as poll watchers can effectively protect the communities they represent at the polls, who are primarily voters of color, immigrants, and other marginalized citizens.” Finally, DAPRI adds that in light of rampant “chaos and disruption” that erupted in previous elections due to unlawful interference from poll challengers, these instructions are particularly important to maintaining order and ensuring “the safe and orderly conduct of elections” in Michigan. 

Read the motion to intervene here.

Learn more about the case here.