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Case Name SawariMedia LLC v. Whitmer VR-MI-0077
Docket / Court 4:20-cv-11246 ( E.D. Mich. )
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Election/Voting Rights
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Case Summary
COVID-19 summary: On May 4, 2020, three voters and an advocacy organization brought this suit to place an initiative on Michigan’s 2020 general election ballot. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief requiring the defendants to enjoin the ballot-access signature requirement and ... read more >
COVID-19 summary: On May 4, 2020, three voters and an advocacy organization brought this suit to place an initiative on Michigan’s 2020 general election ballot. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief requiring the defendants to enjoin the ballot-access signature requirement and filing deadline. The plaintiffs also filed a temporary restraining order (TRO) barring the defendants from enforcing the deadline. On June 11, the preliminary injunction was granted, and the defendants appealed to the Sixth Circuit. The Sixth Circuit denied to stay the preliminary injunction pending appeal. The case is ongoing.


On May 4, 2020, three voters and an advocacy organization seeking to place an initiative on Michigan’s 2020 general election ballot filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan against the Governor of Michigan, the Secretary of State of Michigan, and the Michigan Bureau of Elections. The plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the state’s signature and filing requirements for the general election ballot. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that the combination of Michigan’s ballot access procedure and Governor Witmer’s executive order precluded organizations from submitting ballot initiative petitions in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

The plaintiffs brought this lawsuit as a declaratory action under 28 U.S.C. § 2201 and as an injunctive action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking an order requiring the defendants to enjoin the ballot-access signature requirement and filing deadline. The plaintiffs also filed a temporary restraining order (TRO) to bar the defendants from enforcing the deadline. Additionally, the plaintiffs sought attorney fees. The case was assigned to District Judge Matthew F. Leitman. The plaintiffs were self-represented.

The plaintiffs had submitted a ballot initiative petition to the Michigan Secretary of State on January 16, 2019 which was rejected on the basis that the plaintiffs did not meet the state's signature and filing requirements. Michigan election law required proponents of the ballot initiative to submit 340,047 valid signatures by May 27 to meet the signature and filing deadline. On March 23, 2020 Governor Whitmer announced an executive order prohibiting all public gatherings, which remained in effect for over two months. Prior to the executive order, the plaintiffs had collected approximately 210,000 signatures with two months remaining. The defendants excluded the plaintiffs’ ballot initiative from the 2020 general ballot.

On June 11, 2020, the court granted the preliminary injunction. 2020 WL 3097266. The injunction required the defendants to reduce the burden on ballot access and to narrow its restrictions to make the ballot initiative application constitutional. The defendants submitted a notice of the proposed remedy on June 18, with the option of either extending the deadline or allowing the plaintiffs an opportunity to qualify for the 2022 ballot with the signatures already collected. The court rejected the proposed remedy on June 23 for not properly remedying the constitutional violation.

On June 23, 2020 the defendants appealed to the Sixth Circuit. 20−01594. The same day, the defendant’s motion to stay the preliminary injunction pending appeal was denied by the district court. WL 3447694. The following day, the defendants filed an emergency motion to stay the district court order pending appeal to the Sixth Circuit. On July 2, the Sixth Circuit denied the motion to stay and directed the district court to address any further remedies proposed by the defendants by July 15. 2020 WL 3603684. Further, the court precluded the defendants from enforcing the petition deadline against the plaintiffs if they fail to propose a constitutional remedy by the July 15 deadline. The case is ongoing.

Averyn Lee - 07/04/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
General
Voting
Voting access
Medical/Mental Health
COVID-19 Mitigation Granted
COVID-19 Mitigation Requested
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Voting
Election administration
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) Director of the Michigan Bureau of Elections
Governor of Michigan
Secretary of State of Michigan
Plaintiff Description three voters and an advocacy organization seeking to place an initiative on Michigan’s 2020 general election ballot
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2020 - n/a
Filed 05/04/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
4:20-cv-11246-MFL-MJH (E.D. Mich.)
VR-MI-0077-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/02/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
VR-MI-0077-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/04/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 2]
VR-MI-0077-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/04/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants' Response to Plaintiffs' Motion for TRO/Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 7, 7-1, 7-2, 7-3]
VR-MI-0077-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/27/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiff SawariMedia LLC's Reply Brief in Support of Its Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Preliminary Injunction and Permanent Injunction [ECF# 12]
VR-MI-0077-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/01/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 2) [ECF# 17] (2020 WL 3097266) (E.D. Mich.)
VR-MI-0077-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/11/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants' Emergency Motion for a Stay Pending Emergency Appeal [ECF# 30]
VR-MI-0077-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/23/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiff SawariMedia LLC's Response to Defendants' Emergency Motion for Stay Pending Emergency Appeal [ECF# 31]
VR-MI-0077-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/24/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Defendants' Emergency Motion for a Stay Pending Emergency Appeal (ECF No. 30) [ECF# 32] (2020 WL 3447694) (E.D. Mich.)
VR-MI-0077-0008.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/24/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Ct. of App. ECF# 11-1, 11-2] (2020 WL 3603684)
VR-MI-0077-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 07/02/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Clay, Eric L. (Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
VR-MI-0077-0009
Hluchaniuk, Michael J. (E.D. Mich.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
VR-MI-0077-9000
Larsen, Joan Louise (Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
VR-MI-0077-0009
Leitman, Matthew Frederick (E.D. Mich.) show/hide docs
VR-MI-0077-0005 | VR-MI-0077-0008 | VR-MI-0077-9000
Norris, Alan Eugene (Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
VR-MI-0077-0009
Plaintiff's Lawyers Sahu, Saura James (Michigan) show/hide docs
VR-MI-0077-0004 | VR-MI-0077-0007 | VR-MI-0077-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Grill, Erik A. (Michigan) show/hide docs
VR-MI-0077-0003 | VR-MI-0077-0006 | VR-MI-0077-0009 | VR-MI-0077-9000
Meingast, Heather S. (Michigan) show/hide docs
VR-MI-0077-0003 | VR-MI-0077-0006 | VR-MI-0077-0009 | VR-MI-0077-9000
Nessel, Dana M. (Michigan) show/hide docs
VR-MI-0077-0006

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