PAC files 3rd challenge to state election laws


LANSING — The state of Michigan has adopted laws and policies that overly restrict new voting rights included in a voter-passed constitutional amendment, a group alleges in a lawsuit.

The suit, brought in state court last week, is the third filed by the liberal super PAC Priorities USA in battleground Michigan in 17 days.

It relates to a 2018 ballot initiative that expanded voting options, including by allowing people to register to vote at any time – including on Election Day – with proof of residency and automatically registering those who get or renew their driver's license at a secretary of state branch.

After the measure was approved last November, the Republican-led Legislature voted in December to limit in-person registration to the local clerk's office over objections from Democrats who said citizens should be able to register at polling places. GOP lawmakers said authorizing registration at precincts would make lines longer.

The legislation also defined what documents can prove residency if prospective voters do have a driver's license or state ID card. They must present another form of ID or an affidavit and another document such as a utility bill, bank statement or paycheck.

The suit says the documentation requirement and the ban on same-day registration at polling places will have a disproportionate and negative impact on young voters. It also challenges Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's policy that excludes teens from being automatically registered to vote when they turn 17½ years old, even if they have previously done business at a branch office.

"Young voters in Michigan will face unequal and consequential barriers in registering to vote and may even be denied the right to vote entirely for reasons having nothing to do with their qualification to participate in Michigan elections," the complaint says.

The defendant in the case is Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who is named in her official capacity as the state's top election official. A message seeking comment was left with her office Friday.

Priorities USA previously sued in federal court to challenge restrictions on transporting voters to the polls, helping people apply for absentee ballots and a requirement that absentee ballots be rejected if the voter's signature does not match what is on file.

"Our third and final suit in Michigan places a much-needed emphasis on voting rights for younger voters who wish to make their voices heard in the democratic process," said Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA.

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