Pro-Voting Groups Challenge Michigan’s Voter Transportation Ban in New Lawsuit

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, Aug. 11, pro-voting groups filed a lawsuit challenging a longstanding Michigan statute that makes it a misdemeanor to “hire a motor vehicle” to transport voters to the polls unless they are “physically unable to walk.” According to the lawsuit, which was filed in state court, “no other state has an equivalent prohibition.” The original ban dates back to 1891, but has been amended several times since.

This state-level lawsuit comes after a federal judge previously rejected a separate lawsuit that sought to block the voter transportation ban back in September 2022. The federal lawsuit alleged that the voter transportation ban violated the First and 14th Amendments and Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act. 

The plaintiffs behind the new lawsuit — the Michigan Alliance for Retired Americans, Detroit Disability Power, Michigan Clergy Connects, Priorities USA and an individual voter — claim that Michigan’s voter transportation ban is especially burdensome to senior voters, young voters, voters with disabilities and low income voters, “all of whom lack access to private transportation at greater rates than the average Michigander.” 

The lawsuit argues that the ban hampers get-out-the-vote efforts such as campaigns by Black churches to encourage voter participation through “souls-to-the-polls” initiatives, where congregants are transported to the polls after Sunday church services. Additionally, the legal challenge asserts that the voter transportation ban prevents rideshare companies, such as Uber and Lyft, from offering free or discounted rides to the polls on Election Day in Michigan. 

Although the challenged law “makes an exception for voters who ‘are physically unable to walk,’ it does not account for the countless other Michiganders who need rides to the polls even though they are able to walk,” the lawsuit points out. The groups maintain that Michigan has no legitimate government interest in preventing voters from getting to the polls via hired transportation. Indeed, “widespread voter fraud or coercion has never existed in Michigan,” the lawsuit states.

The pro-voting groups contend that the voter transportation ban is an “an unreasonable and unnecessary obstacle to voting” that violates an amendment to the Michigan Constitution enshrining the “fundamental right to vote.” The amendment was overwhelmingly approved by Michigan voters via a ballot measure in the November 2022 midterm elections. 

“The only purpose served by the Voter Transportation Ban is voter suppression,” the complaint emphatically declares, adding that the challenged ban “outright denies access to the franchise to some of Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens.” The plaintiffs ask the court to declare the transportation ban in violation of the Michigan Constitution and to block its enforcement. 

Read the complaint.

Learn more about the case here.