Priorities USA Statement on Voting Rights Victory and Pivotal Signature Matching Reforms in Michigan

April 21, 2020

Today, Priorities USA moved to voluntarily dismiss a lawsuit challenging Michigan’s unconstitutional signature matching law. The law requires election officials to compare the signature on an absentee ballot with the voter’s corresponding signature on file with election authorities and to reject all absentee ballots with non-matching signatures. The voluntary dismissal comes after state officials adopted key reforms outlined in Priorities USA’s motion for preliminary injunction on February 25th. The reforms provide various forms of relief for Michigan voters including instructing clerks to provide notice of signature mismatch determinations within 24 hours by phone and email. Due to these much needed reforms, the initial lawsuit, which was filed in October 2019, is no longer needed.

Guy Cecil, Chairman of Priorities USA, released the following statement in response to the recent Michigan victory:

“We are facing unprecedented barriers to voting and that means we must collectively work toward safe and fair elections. I applaud the state of Michigan for recognizing the urgency of this issue and making it easier for voters to cast their absentee ballots. These new measures will also ensure that the people of Michigan will have increased access to the ballot and that is a win for everyone.”

In a preliminary injunction motion filed on February 25th, Priorities USA requested:

  • A directive from the Secretary of State instructing clerks to provide notice of signature mismatch determinations within 24 hours of such determination by phone, text, and email.
  • A directive from the Secretary of State implementing a cure procedure for absentee ballots and ballot applications.
  •  A directive implementing safeguards to ensure that ballots are not flagged for signature mismatch unless officials find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the signatures do not match.
  • Formal signature matching training.

On February 27th, Michigan issued the following directives:

  • Clerks must “immediately” inform voters of missing or mismatched signatures using “any and all contact information available,” and should “call and e-mail the voter,” in addition to providing notice by mail.
  • Voters can cure mail applications by mail, email, fax, or in person until 5 pm on Friday before Election Day, and may cure in-person applications by 4 pm on the Monday before Election Day.
  •  Voters can cure absentee ballots by requesting a new absentee ballot up to 2 pm on Saturday Before Election Day, and may also cure absentee ballots in-person until 8 pm on Election Day.
  • Introduced a new training resource that instructs clerks how to perform signature verification and includes specific examples. The Bureau of Elections will incorporate this guidance into the manuals and training for election officials.