LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court ruled Thursday that local clerks may use new poll challenger guidelines issued by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson for Tuesday’s election.
The decision will pause a Michigan judge’s Oct. 20 ruling that blocked poll challenger guidance requiring increased credentialing for challengers and banning electronics in absentee counting boards. The new guidance was in place during the August primary.
“We’ve long been confident in the legality of the Michigan Bureau of Elections’ guidelines surrounding election challengers and their rightful balance providing transparency while protecting voters and poll workers from disruptions and intimidation,” Benson said in a statement.
The high court’s order paused the judge’s ruling, which stemmed from a Republican lawsuit, and determined that a final ruling will come after the Nov. 8 general election.
In his Oct. 20 order, Court of Claims Judge Brock Swartzle found that some provisions in the election challenger manual were at odds with the law or failed to undergo the proper rule-making procedure with input from the public and state lawmakers.
The secretary of state’s new manual — issued in May — outlines the rights and duties of election challengers and poll watchers. It was created in the wake of multiple confrontations between election officials and poll challengers and watchers during the 2020 presidential election.
Lawsuits that involved the Michigan GOP and National Republican Committee took issue with new credentials required by the secretary of state and that poll challengers would have to communicate with a “challenger liaison” instead of election officials.
Challengers cannot take cellphones, tablets and computers into counting rooms where absentee ballots are processed prior to polls closing. State election law prohibits challengers from communicating information from absentee counting boards related “to the processing or tallying of votes” before the polls close.