Michigan Republicans Appeal Dismissal of Lawsuit Challenging Pro-Voting Amendments

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republican lawmakers in Michigan have appealed the dismissal of their federal legal challenge to a duo of pro-voting constitutional amendments, which they premised on the rejected independent state legislature (ISL) theory

The amendments at issue in the Republicans’ lawsuit, which were enshrined in the Michigan Constitution via voter-approved ballot initiative petitions in 2018 and 2022, added robust pro-voting reforms to the state constitution. Included among the amendments’ provisions are the right to cast an absentee ballot for any reason, an expanded early in-person voting period, automatic voter registration and more. 

In a September 2023 lawsuit seeking to nullify the amendments, GOP legislators argued a federal court should ban the future use of ballot initiative petitions that would — if approved by voters — change how the state constitution regulates the “times, places, and manner of federal elections.” 

The Republican plaintiffs based their arguments on the unfounded ISL theory — which was largely rebuffed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2023 decision in Moore v. Harper — to contend that voter-approved amendments regulating federal elections “are an unconstitutional usurpation of state legislator’s rights to participate in law-making decisions under the Elections Clause” of the U.S. Constitution. 

Employing the ISL theory, the GOP state legislators specifically interpreted the Elections Clause to mean that state legislatures have the sole authority to set rules for federal elections, free from state constitutional review by courts, citizen-approved ballot initiatives and other parts of the state government. According to the lawsuit, the Michigan Legislature’s power was “undermined” due to its lack of involvement in the ballot initiative process.

In an April 10 ruling, which the lawmakers today appealed to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a Biden-appointed federal judge concluded that the legislators lacked standing to bring their claims. 

With today’s appeal to the 6th Circuit, the legislators will once again seek to resurrect the ISL theory and invalidate the pro-voting amendments, which the state’s Democratic-controlled Legislature has already largely codified into law. 

Earlier this week, Republican legislators in Pennsylvania asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up an ISL-based lawsuit challenging automatic voter registration policies in the Keystone State. 

Read the notice of appeal here.

Learn more about the case here.