State: Lawsuit challenging poll watcher guidelines ‘frivolous’

Elections

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A new lawsuit is challenging the state of Michigan’s coronavirus guidelines for poll watchers saying some of the measures interfere with the oversight process.

State officials strongly dispute the litigation filed Friday calling it “frivolous.”

Steve Carra, a Republican candidate for state representative in a district spanning St. Joseph and Cass counties, is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

“I think it’s important to make sure we have fair, honest and transparent elections and poll watchers are an integral part in making sure that that happens,” Carra said.

He says he wants to be sure election challengers, which are officials selected by political parties to observe, are not limited to watching from 6 feet away.

The other plaintiff is Robert Cushman, who is identified in the lawsuit as an election challenger. He alleges social distancing regulations during the primary made it “hard to impossible to read names in the poll books” and very hard to see computer screens and observe the adjudication process.

“Having to follow the (Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’) orders of maintaining a 6-foot distance during the election process will prohibit a poll watcher from being properly able to do their job,” Carra said.

State officials declined to speak with News 8 on camera, but Jake Rollow, a spokesperson with MDHHS, issued the following statement in response to the allegations in the lawsuit:

“This frivolous lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to gain media attention and falsely attack the integrity of Michigan elections. The guidance issued by the Bureau of Elections allows challengers to temporarily stand within six feet of election workers to issue challenges and view the poll book. Michigan elections are being conducted fairly and transparently.”

Guidelines from the Bureau of Elections included with the lawsuit say social distancing needs to be observed “whenever possible.”

Carra says the rules need to be clearer.

“The attorneys and I would be happy to have conversations about clarification and that they are able to go within that 6 feet,” Carra said. “Not just in special occasions.”

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