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Nessel says she will use AG powers to protect against voter intimidation

"Vote here" sign
Mark Brush
Michigan Radio
A polling location in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says her office is ready to prosecute any efforts to use intimidation or misinformation to illegally swing the November elections.

Nessell, a Democrat, has compiled a list of laws that are supposed to deter election meddling. She says meddling includes threats that registering to vote could put government benefits at risk, or misleading people on where or how to vote.

“Because when you do that, you’re interfering with democracy itself,” she told Michigan Radio, “and there should be nothing more important to us as Americans than preserving our right to vote.”

Nessel says there are state and federal laws that protect against lies and voter intimidation without violating free speech rights. She says casting double ballots or registering to vote in more than one jurisdiction is also a crime.

Election meddling in Michigan is a big issue largely because the margin in the presidential race was so close in 2016.

Nessel also said she’s opposed to efforts to continue litigation on dropped-off and mailed-in ballots cast in this year’s elections. A state Court of Claims ruled last week that ballots postmarked by November 2nd must be counted. Nessel won on that point. Her office asked for more, but Nessell says it’s time to lay those arguments to rest for this election:

“It’s so important that we have definitive measures in place that people understand because if we go back and forth and back and forth people aren’t going to know what to expect or what they need to do in order to ensure that their vote is counted.”

Judge Cynthia Stephens' decision applies only to the 2020 elections, which means the issue will almost certainly be re-visited later. It’s also possible another party to the case will appeal.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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