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AG Nessel, SOS Benson React to Court of Claims Judge Tossing Election Suit

LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson issued the following statements in response to Court of Claims Judge Thomas Cameron's decision to dismiss Ryan v. Benson

"From the beginning, this lawsuit was filed in an attempt to undermine the integrity of our elections and results," Nessel said. "We may be more than two years beyond the 2020 presidential election, but our team remains committed to defending the Secretary of State against baseless allegations stemming from it. And as we get closer to this November, let this outcome serve as a reminder of our dedication to upholding and defending democracy." 

"This case was yet another example of the misuse and abuse of our legal system to wrongly sow seeds of doubt about the integrity of our elections," Benson said. "It was meritless and misguided and the court rightly noted the ability for nonpartisan nonprofit organizations to work directly with local communities to ensure they have the support they need to protect and count every valid vote. It further underscores the need for the legislature and federal government to provide sustained funding for elections, so that clerks across the state and political spectrum have consistent and sufficient funds to run accessible and secure elections." 

The suit, first filed in Oct. 2020, claimed in part that private grant money awarded to local governments running elections - specifically grants awarded by the Center for Technology & Civic Life - violated Equal Protection, and that the Secretary of State should (SOS) have prevented local election officials from accepting the grants or required them to return the funds. 

In October of 2020, Court of Claims Judge Christopher Murray denied a preliminary injunction but directed that discovery should be done to investigate the plaintiffs' claim that grant money was being directed to only certain jurisdictions to affect the outcome of elections. 

But, after voluminous document discovery, the Department learned that each of the named plaintiffs lived in a jurisdiction that received grant funding. The process also showed there was no evidence that the SOS attempted to steer grant money to only certain jurisdictions.  

In December, the Department filed a motion for summary disposition on behalf of SOS, arguing that the plaintiffs lacked standing. Judge Cameron agreed that the plaintiffs lacked standing and dismissed their claims. 

"To that end, plaintiffs fail to allege or establish a harm or injury that is different from the citizenry at large. Notably, it appears to be undisputed at this time that no counties or jurisdictions-in particular, the jurisdictions in which plaintiffs reside-were denied access to the funds at issue. This undermines plaintiffs' assertion of standing with respect to the constitutional violations they have alleged. In other words, without the targeted access to funds that was once alleged, plaintiffs fail to state an injury that is different from that of the citizenry at large. And in all other respects, the complaint contains allegations that are not unique to plaintiffs or that are not otherwise distinguishable from any concerns that might be held by the public at large," the opinion states in part. 

The full opinion can be found on the Department of Attorney General website