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Judge: Michigan must count absentee ballots that arrive late

Envelopes postmarked by the eve of the Nov. 3 election are eligible even if they show up days later.

LANSING, Mich. — A judge has cleared the way for more absentee ballots to be counted in Michigan. Envelopes postmarked by the eve of the Nov. 3 election are eligible even if they show up days later.

Michigan is anticipating waves of absentee ballots this fall: about 2.3 million have already been requested. Michigan law requires absentee ballots to be received by the time polls close on Election Day to be counted. 

Judge Cynthia Stephens said Friday that flexibility is crucial in 2020 because of the coronavirus and chronic mail delays. Separately, another judge blocked Michigan’s longstanding ban on transporting voters to the polls.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson issued a statement on Friday morning's Court of Claims ruling:

"No eligible voter should be disenfranchised through no fault of their own for exercising their right to vote by mail. The court’s decision recognizes many of the unique challenges that the pandemic has created for all citizens and will reduce the potential for voter disenfranchisement due to mail delays," she said. 

"However we still want voters to make a plan to vote now, and not wait until the last minute if they want to vote by mail. That’s why we will continue to strongly encourage voters to request and return their absentee ballots as soon as possible."