WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, Sept. 30, the Republican National Committee, the Michigan Republican Party and a voter filed a lawsuit against Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) and the Michigan director of elections challenging a set of 2022 rules pertaining to the appointment, rights and duties of partisan elections challengers (“2022 Election Challenger Instructions”). The Republican plaintiffs allege 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. According to the complaint, the new instructions are a “significant departure” from prior iterations of the rules regulating election challengers and “contain express self-descriptors that are typically associated with documents meant to have the effect of law,” as opposed to being merely “guidance.”
Specifically, the plaintiffs assert that numerous rule changes contained in the 2022 Election Challenger Instructions violate Michigan law. These changes include: 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 or Absent Voter Counting Board (AVCB) “have an election inspector designated as the challenger liaison;” a restriction that only permits election challengers to communicate with “challenger liaisons;” a prohibition on the “possession of certain electronic devices in AVCBs” and a regulation that authorizes election inspectors to not record “impermissible challenges.”
The plaintiffs contend that all of these new additions to the rules are “directly inconsistent with the Michigan election law, past guidance, and common past and current practice.” Although the rules were in place for the August 2022 primary, the plaintiffs claim that “the new instructions were silently posted to the Secretary’s website shortly before the August 2022 primary election” and that the defendants failed to properly notify both the public and election officials about the rule changes. The plaintiffs ask the court to invalidate the challenged rules for violating Michigan law and to prohibit the defendants from enforcing them. Additionally, the Republican plaintiffs ask the court to order the defendants to “reissue the prior version” of the rules that were in place for the 2020 election. This lawsuit represents yet another Republican attempt to flout regulations on poll watchers whom the party notoriously weaponizes into agents of intimidation and voter suppression.