Judge blocks Michigan’s ban on transporting voters to polls

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LANSING — A federal judge blocked Michigan’s longstanding ban on transporting voters to the polls, ruling it conflicts with U.S. election law.

District Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis in Detroit issued an injunction Thursday against enforcing the restriction in November’s presidential election. A form of the prohibition has been on the books since 1895.

The ban had been challenged by groups including Priorities USA — a liberal super PAC that has said it plans to spend millions mobilizing and turning out voters in the battleground state — and the Detroit/Downriver chapter of the union-affiliated A. Philip Randolph Institute.

“Congress implemented a statutory scheme and gave citizens the right to spend money on transporting voters to the polls,” Davis wrote.

The judge separately rejected the nonprofits’ challenge to the state’s restrictions on helping people apply for absentee ballots.

In Michigan, it is a misdemeanor to hire drivers to take voters to polling places unless they physically cannot walk. Because of the ban, Michigan was the only state in which ride-hailing company Uber did not offer discounted rides to the polls on Election Day in November 2018, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs contended that there is no rational basis for the prohibition because it already is a crime to buy votes, and the law arbitrarily excludes those who cannot drive due to other disabilities from being assisted.

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