Priorities USA v. Nessel, No. 20-1931 (6th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Voter-advocacy organizations challenged Michigan statutes regulating absentee ballots and mandating that no one “hire a motor vehicle or other conveyance or cause the same to be done, for conveying voters, other than voters physically unable to walk, to an election." Michigan Attorney General Nessel was the named defendant; permissive intervenor status was granted to both houses of the Michigan Legislature, and the Republican Party. The court rejected challenges to the absentee-ballot statute but preliminarily enjoined enforcement of the voter-transportation law. When the intervenors sought an emergency stay of the injunction pending appeal, Nessel declined to take a position. The district court denied the intervenors’ motion.
The Sixth Circuit granted an emergency stay. The legislature has standing to appeal. The state statute is likely not preempted by federal law, the Federal Election Campaign Act, 52 U.S.C. 30143. The balance of equities weighs in favor of staying the order. The harm to the legislature without a stay would be irreparable: election day will only happen once, and the legislature will lose its ability to regulate paid voter transportation for that election. The harm to the voter-advocacy organizations appears modest. There are other ways, without violating Michigan’s statute, to take voters to the polls. With the expansion of mailed ballots in Michigan, there are likely fewer voters who need to be driven to the polls. The public interest lies in elections conducted with a minimum of fraud and in free elections, in which as many eligible voters can vote as desire to.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on July 20, 2021.