Court Order Extends Filing Deadline for Candidates, Reduces…

Court Order Extends Filing Deadline for Candidates, Reduces Signature Requirements

(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 20, 2020)

Michigan – US District Court Judge Terrence Berg issued a court order that changes the April 21 filing deadline and rules for some candidates. The order comes in light of a lawsuit brought by three political candidates who were impeded from collecting signatures due to the state’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order.

“Candidates typically gather these signatures door-to-door, or in high-traffic public places like outside malls, grocery stores, crowded school or community events, public rallies, or places of worship,” Judge Berg said in his order.

“Since March 23, 2020, traditional door-to-door signature collecting has become a misdemeanor offense; malls, churches and schools and other public venues where signatures might be gathered have been shuttered, and even the ability to rely on the mail to gather signatures is uncertain —if not prohibitively expensive,” Judge Berger said.

“The reality on the ground for plaintiff and other candidates is that state action has pulled the rug out from under their ability to collect signatures.”

The candidates whose case brought about the extension were Republican Eric Esshaki who is running for Congress in the 11th District, Matt Savich of Novi who is running for 45th District Court Judge, and Deana Beard who is running for Third Circuit Court Judge in Wayne County.  Oakland County Times spoke to Matt Savich who did not want to comment on the suit other than to say he’s pleased with the results.

According to the order, Esshaki collected 700 of the necessary 1,000 signatures he needed before the deadline.  The Defendants – Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Director of Michigan Bureau of Elections Jonathan Brater- “contend that enforcement of the signature requirement in light of the Governor’s Stay-at-Home Order has only moderately burdened Plaintiff’s ability to run for elective office.  Defendants argue that Plaintiff entered the race relatively late, that he was not diligently collecting signatures before the Stay-at-Home Order was issued, that he should have “doubled down” on his signature-collection efforts… that he could have collected signatures by mail, and that even if he fails to get on the ballot, he can always run as a writer-in candidate.”

The court heard suggested remedies from both sides, and came up with a ruling that included both ideas.

The Michigan Municipal League, a nonpartisan organization for local governments across the state, shared a concise summary of the ruling:

“The order only affects the following offices that do not include an option to file with a filing fee including cities and village offices where the charter does not allow for the option to file with a fee. All other offices will maintain the April 21 filing deadline.

“Candidates must have also filed a statement of organization with the Michigan Campaign Finance Act before March 10, 2020 qualify for the filing deadline extension and other changes.

“For federal, judicial, city and village offices and candidates only, the order:

Extends the filing deadline to May 8 at 5:00 p.m. The deadline for all other offices (those with the option to pay a fee instead of signatures) remains April 21 at 4:00 p.m.

Reduces the signature requirement by 50 percent. For example, For example, candidates for certain city council positions subject to the April 21, 2020 deadline need only gather one hundred signatures.

Allows candidates to collect signature images and submit petition sheets electronically.

The Bureau of Elections is reviewing the order and has 72 hours to develop a procedure that allows the collection and submission of ballot petition signatures in digital form by electronic means. Additional information will be provided to the county, township and city clerks directly as soon as available.”

The full decision and order can be found here.

This story is a work in progress and may be updated throughout the day.

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