Resource: Davis v. Benson

By: Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project

September 1, 2020

Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project

Plaintiff sued the Secretary of State for the State of Michigan for violating his constitutional and statutory rights by mailing of an unsolicited absentee voter application. Defendant mass mailed unsolicited absentee voter applications to plaintiff and other registered voters in the State of Michigan. Plaintiff alleged that mailing out of unsolicited applications was unlawful, arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to Mich. Comp. Laws §168.759(5). Under Michigan Election Law, the process of issuing absentee ballots is controlled by local city and township clerks, not the Secretary of State. Also, a registered voter must first request an application to vote by absentee ballot. Defendant contended that the applications were mailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because plaintiff believed that the unsolicited absentee voter application was unlawful, he chose to vote in person for the August 4, 2020 primary election. He was told, however, that the local clerk’s office would not issue a different absentee ballot application. Therefore, plaintiff contended that he had been denied his constitutional and statutory rights to request an absentee voter application from his local city clerk as well as procedural due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.