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Court of Appeals Affirms Lower Court Dismissal of 2020 Election Challenge
March 27, 2023
LANSING – The Michigan Court of Appeals issued an opinion on March 23, 2023, affirming the Court of Claims’ order granting summary disposition and dismissing the complaint in Ryan v. Benson, one of the last outstanding challenges related to Michigan’s 2020 election, Attorney General Dana Nessel announced.
“My department is committed to defending Michigan’s elections and election results against baseless accusations which seek to undermine faith in our democracy,” Nessel said. “We will continue to safeguard the will of the voters against meritless attacks such as this one.”
“Meritless lawsuits undermine citizens’ well-placed faith in our elections and remain one of the weapons used in the ongoing, multifaceted and well-funded attack on American democracy. But if we continue to build a nonpartisan pro-democracy coalition that counters misinformation with facts we can ensure that our democracy emerges from this critical moment stronger than ever before,” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said.
The suit, first filed in October 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 rights, and that the Secretary of State should have prevented local election officials from accepting the grants or required them to return the funds. But documents produced during the litigation revealed the plaintiffs each resided in jurisdictions benefitted by private grant funding in the 2020 election cycle, and Court of Claims Judge Thomas Cameron dismissed their complaint as moot.
The subsequent passage of Proposal 2-22 expressly granted local election officials discretion on whether to accept and use private funds to conduct and administer elections. In their opinion, the Court of Appeals wrote that “even if plaintiffs’ claims were not moot before and even if plaintiffs had standing to raise those claims, plaintiffs’ claims are most surely moot now and the issue of standing is no longer relevant.” This is the first time any Michigan court has had occasion to look at the new Const 1963, art 2, sec 4(3) which resulted from Proposal 2-22's passage.