In a scathing opinion issued the day before the midterm elections, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny on Monday denied a request from Kristina Karamo – the Republican vying to become the next Chief Electoral Officer of the Michigan – to expand election observers’ access to counting Detroit’s mail-in ballots. and subjects Detroit voters and election officials to a different set of rules than the rest of the state.
In his order on Monday, Kenny dismissed the lawsuit, which was filed less than two weeks before the midterm elections and originally asked the court to stop counting mail-in ballots for the November 8 election no demanded in person by Detroit voters.
“The plaintiffs have raised a false flag of election law violations and corruption regarding Detroit’s proceedings for the November 8 election,” Kenny wrote in his opinion. “The decision of this Court removes this flag.”
Kenny said those filing the lawsuit “sawed for months before filing a lawsuit” that would “create the potential harm of disenfranchising tens of thousands of Detroiters” in Tuesday’s election.
“This is unacceptable and cannot be allowed.”
In a brief filed Friday, attorneys representing Karamo and other plaintiffs in the case amended the request to prevent the counting of mail-in ballots that Detroit voters requested in person.
Instead, the brief asked the court to prohibit voters from applying for mail-in ballots by mail or online by showing ID for all future elections until Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson establishes rules telling election administrators how to verify voter signatures. Benson attempted to do so before Tuesday’s election, but a GOP-led legislative committee dismissed the issue, delaying action until after the election.
Kenny wrote that in “the 48 hours between November 2 and November 4, plaintiffs’ claims for relief changed three times.” And he dismissed the court’s request for intervention in future elections as moot.
He said that in an evidentiary hearing that lasted nearly nine hours last week, those filing the lawsuit “did not… produce a shred of evidence”.
Karamo countered in a tweet that Kenny “refused to allow ‘evidence’ of past violations…and decided the case solely on defendants’ ‘allegations’ of how they ‘intend’ to conduct this election”.
Kenny blasted the preliminary injunction originally intended to force Detroit voters to request ballots in person as a clear violation of the Michigan Constitution, which gives registered voters in the state the right to request ballots. mail-in ballots.
“Such harm to the citizens of the City of Detroit, and by extension the citizens of the State of Michigan, is not only unprecedented, it is intolerable,” he wrote. “The idea that the Court would designate a community in the state to be treated adversely when plaintiffs have provided no evidence to support their claim simply cannot happen.”
Other plaintiffs in Karamo’s lawsuit include ballot candidates who observed vote counting in Detroit in previous elections, now conducting trainings for election observers and an organization that has touted its legal efforts to decertify voters. 2020 elections.
Kenny called his experience presiding over more than a week of hearings in the case unprecedented after lawyers representing Karamo and the other plaintiffs denied that their lawsuit would disenfranchise military voters or would require Detroit voters to request mail-in ballots in person, as their complaint stated.
“As a judge for 26 years, this is the first time I’ve had a situation where the party initiating a lawsuit asked the judge, ‘what relief are you seeking?’ I’m not getting an answer,” Kenny said at the end of closing arguments on Friday.
After:Kristina Karamo seeks court order that could impact thousands of Detroit voters
After:Detroiters see disenfranchisement in Karamo’s bid to change majority-black city’s voting rules
In a new request for relief filed on Friday, Karamo’s lawsuit also argued that pollsters empowered to challenge voters’ eligibility to vote should have the power to oversee election officials who check voters’ signatures on applications. postal voting. He asked Kenny to order Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey to create a public record of how Detroit election officials verified the signatures of voters in the city, to provide a live broadcast of the camera surveillance of drop boxes in the city for future elections and to grant challengers access to a platform. in Detroit’s absentee count room housing the computers that collect election results. Kenny dismissed the allegations in support of the expanded access request, writing that they were “unsubstantiated and/or misinterpret Michigan election law.”
Even the amended relief claim would have threatened the votes of thousands of Detroiters, according to David Fink, an attorney who represented Winfrey in the case. For example, he asked the court to end the process of arbitrating ballots rejected by tabulators in a process overseen by Republican and Democratic election officials to ensure that every vote counts.
“Equally important though…they continued to demand that in future elections, Detroiters and only Detroiters be required to present in-person identification to vote by mail, a burden that would not be imposed on any voter elsewhere in the state,” Fink said. “They were asking the court to do this in the next presidential election.”
During closing arguments in the case, Detroit society attorney Conrad Mallett called the lawsuit an attack on Winfrey and Detroit voters. “I’m just incredibly surprised and disappointed that we’re where we are. Plaintiffs based on speculation, innuendo and half-baked conspiracy theories have stormed into this courthouse alleging wrongdoing,” he said. he declares. Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Michigan Democratic Party filed motions to submit briefs in support of a legal filing by Winfrey opposing the plaintiffs’ pre-election judicial invention claim.
Detroit voters, political leaders and the Detroit branch NAACP say Karamo’s last-minute legal offer was an attempt to disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters in the nation’s largest black majority city. .
During closing arguments, Alexandria Taylor, an attorney representing Karamo and others in the case, said the lawsuit “had nothing to do with race” and said identity politics worked to “mislead the Detroiters and hide deep-rooted corruption”.
“We filed this lawsuit to bring light to a dark place. A place that has been shrouded in a veil of secrecy,” she said.
In his view, Kenny criticized the plaintiffs for making unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing in Detroit.
“While it’s easy to level charges of breaking the law and bribery, it’s another matter to come forward and produce the evidence our Constitution and laws require,” he wrote. “Despite plaintiffs’ arguments to ‘shed light in a dark place,’ they failed spectacularly.”
Kenny issued the notice after attorneys involved in Karamo’s lawsuit sought to disqualify him from presiding over the case and appoint a guest judge from outside Wayne County to hear the case. The attorneys withdrew their motion to disqualify when they learned that as Chief Justice Kenny presided over all election-related matters and his name did not appear on the midterm ballot.
Winfrey filed a motion for sanctions Friday regarding the plaintiffs’ motion to disqualify asking the court to order those who filed the lawsuit to pay more than $11,600 to cover the city’s legal fees.
Election officials recommend that voters who have requested and received their completed absentee ballots and return them as soon as possible in person to their local clerk’s office or to a drop box to avoid postal delays. Clerks must receive absentee ballots by 8 p.m. Tuesday for them to be counted. Eligible people can register to vote and vote until 8 p.m. on Election Day. Polling stations open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays.
After:Michigan Election 2022 Voter’s Guide: Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne Counties
Clara Hendrickson audits Michigan issues and politics as a body member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Make a tax-deductible contribution to support his work at bit.ly/freepRFA. Reach her at [email protected] or 313-296-5743. Follow her on Twitter @clarajanehen.
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