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Election Integrity News Blog


Eleven Michigan Legislators Appeal Federal Lawsuit to the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals


From Michigan Fair Elections


Lawmakers claim standing to sue state government for infringing on their constitutional rights when it used ballot initiatives to change election laws.


July 2, 2024. Yesterday eleven Michigan Legislators filed their principal brief in an appeal to the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming their constitutional rights have been violated. 


Under the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 4, (“Elections Clause”), state legislatures are given the constitutional power and authority to regulate the time, place, and manner of federal elections.


In 2018 and 2022 amendments to the Michigan Constitution altered election laws through a process that bypassed the state legislature, thereby encroaching on the individual legislators’ federally-protected and mandated constitutional authority.


In April 2024 the District Court dismissed the 11 legislators’ original lawsuit, not on the merits, but because the court held that the legislators did not have standing to bring the case. Standing is a term meaning, in essence, that these legislators were not the proper people to bring this case before a court.


The brief’s “Statement of Issue” reads as follows:

Whether state legislators have standing to sue state executive officials for enacting and continuing to permit and enforce Michigan citizen-initiated petition-and-ballot amendments to the state constitution regulating federal elections, without state legislative participation, in violation of the state legislators’ § 1983-enforceable individual rights or privileges under the Elections Clause.


Representative Steve Carra (R), leader of the House Freedom Caucus and a plaintiff in the case, disagreed with the judge’s decision and is optimistic the Appellate court will overturn the  prior ruling. “If I, as a legislator, don’t have standing to say election laws are being passed without legislature approval, then who does? The Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution protects legislative authority to determine the times, places, and manner of elections.”


State Senator Jonathan Lindsey (R), also a plaintiff, concurred with Carra. “I disagree with the judge's decision to deny my right as a legislator to protect the role granted to me by the U.S. Constitution. When a federal judge misuses their power by denying a valid case to be heard, it damages our entire body politic. I am pleased we are appealing this decision.”


The Founding Fathers feared the government would devolve into authoritarian rule, Carra explained. They wrote both the Elections Clause and the Electors Clause in Articles I and II of the Constitution of the United States, “specifically to put the power to protect elections in the hands of We the People through their locally elected state legislators.”


Attorney Erick Kaardal, who built his 30-year career based on leveling the playing field for working people against the government, is now employing those same skills to help legislators. He explained, “Under the US Constitution’s Elections Clause, individual state legislators—not the group—have the federal right to vote on election laws subject to Congressionally-enacted laws. That power is supreme under the US Constitution. When those federal rights are violated by executive branch officials or otherwise, recourse to federal courts is necessary to protect the individual state legislators’ federal rights. The US District Court decision exclusively gives the right to sue to the Attorney General or the State legislature. But reading the text of the Elections Clause shows the individual state legislators can sue too.” Kaardal, of Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson, P.A., is representing the case.


State Senator Jim Runestad (R), a plaintiff in the case, emphasized the need for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to rule in favor of the legislators. “It is extremely important to have these constitutional questions adjudicated as rapidly as possible,” he said. “I am a firm believer in the Constitution. The people have a right to have this issue decided in a court of law, so everyone can have confidence that we are preserving civil rights and obeying the Constitution.”


The lawsuit (Case No. 1:23-cv-1025) was first heard in the U.S. District Court Western District of Michigan, Southern Division. It names as defendants Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, and Jonathan Brater, Director of the Bureau of Elections.


At issue are constitutional amendments that ushered in the most dramatic changes to Michigan’s election laws in a decade. The non-legislatively adopted provisions allow same-day voter registrations without valid proof of identity, nine to 29 days of early in-person voting, private funding of election administration, and no-excuse absentee voting procedures. The adopted ballot proposals also changed in-person voting procedures, reduced board of canvasser authority, and created an independent redistricting commission.


Carra said the powers who sought to change Michigan’s elections laws “weaponized millions of dollars from out of state against the voting public of Michigan using deceptive tactics.” According to Ballotpedia, of the total $31.7 million used to promote Proposal 2 (the Constitutional amendment to change election law), 74% came from out of state, with $11.3 million pouring in from the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a 501(c)4 nonprofit based in Washington D.C. The George Soros Open Society Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit based in New York, accounted for $1.2 million of the outstate money.


Kaardal has overseen more than 1,000 cases and specializes in constitutional and appellate law. He has achieved 63 election integrity lawfare successes and won two U.S. Supreme Court victories. He graduated from Harvard and earned his law degree from the University of Chicago Law School.

Michigan Fair Elections, the sponsor of the lawsuit, is a Michigan-based, non-profit 501(c)3 organization. Its local task forces are dedicated to restoring fair and honest elections through education, local citizen participation, and litigation. MFE continues to remain at the forefront of defending the U.S. Constitution, citizen rights, and election integrity through education and counter lawfare.


To view the full brief, click here

24-1413 Appellants Brief 07-01-24-2-2
Download PDF • 887KB

 For more information, contact Alex Weddon at or mobile 734-260-9610.

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Contact Michigan Fair Elections at P.O. Box 41, Stockbridge, MI 49285.


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The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the authors and do not reflect the official position of the Michigan Fair Elections. Every article written by an MFE author is generated by the author or editor alone. Links embedded within the article, however, may have been generated by artificial intelligence.2



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