Michigan voters overwhelmingly passed Proposal 3 in 2018, which enshrined in Michigan’s Constitution the right to vote an absentee ballot in the 40 days before an election, either at home by mail or in person at the voter’s local clerk’s office. In the weeks leading up to the August 2020 primary election, however, the city clerk’s office in Flint remained closed to the public, preventing voters from exercising their constitutional right to obtain and cast their absentee ballots in person. And Flint voters who had requested their absentee ballots by mail were not receiving them, despite a state-law requirement that clerks issue absentee ballots immediately upon receiving a voter’s request.

In July 2020 the ACLU of Michigan filed an emergency lawsuit against the Flint city clerk to prevent the disenfranchisement of thousands of Flint voters. Following a two-day hearing, Judge Celeste Bell ruled that the city clerk was violating her clear legal duties under the Michigan Constitution and state election law, and ordered the clerk to have her office open to the public every day until the election and to process all applications for absentee ballots within 24 hours of receipt. In September 2020 we asked the judge to rule that the same requirements applied to the general election in November.

(Barkey v. Brown; ACLU Attorneys Dan Korobkin, Sharon Dolente and Phil Mayor; Cooperating Attorneys Alec Gibbs and Muna Jondy, and Shankar Duraiswamy and Sarah Suwanda of Covington & Burling.)