In a ruling from federal judge Lawrence Zatkoff, the city of Ann Arbor has been ordered not to count votes in the Ward 3 city council primary race that were cast on misprinted absentee ballots – which omitted the name of one of the candidates. The order was issued on July 22, 2014. [.pdf of July 22, 2014 order]
The ruling makes clear that votes in races other than the Ward 3 city council race can be counted from the misprinted ballots. In-person voting takes place on Aug. 5, 2014.
That ruling came in response to a motion filed by Ward 3 candidate Bob Dascola’s attorney, Tom Wieder, on July 7, 2014, asking that the city be enjoined from counting votes in the Ward 3 race that were cast on incorrectly printed ballots.
The question of counting votes arose because the ballots for the race were initially printed incorrectly, omitting the name of one of the candidates. Printed correctly on the ballots were Julie Grand and Samuel McMullen. However, Bob Dascola – who had filed a successful lawsuit against the city in order to be a candidate – was mistakenly left off the ballots.
About 400 of those incorrect ballots were sent to absentee voters. The city has taken steps to attempt to rectify the situation, sending replacement ballots with instructions to those voters who received incorrect ballots. For background on the series of events that led to the incorrect printing of ballots, see “Dascola Mistakenly Left Off Ward 3 Ballot.”
The number of potentially disputed ballots currently stands at less than a dozen.
Wieder’s July 7 motion was filed as a request for post-judgment relief in the federal case that was litigated to put Dascola’s name on the ballot in the first place. In that ruling, the court decided that the city charter eligibility requirements are not enforceable. Related to that, the city council voted at its July 21, 2014 meeting to place legally enforceable charter requirements in front of voters for the Nov. 4 general election.
The July 22 ruling from the court came in favor of Dascola, even though the Michigan Secretary of State had, on July 11, 2014, filed a successful motion to be allowed as an intervening party – and had argued for counting Ward 3 votes on the misprinted ballots.
The July 22 order includes a requirement that the city, Dascola and the Secretary of State all file with the court by noon on July 25 a description of the procedures that will be used to count votes in the Ward 3 race. One of the specific questions they must answer in their filings is: “What process will the Ann Arbor Defendants and the Secretary of State use to guarantee only those absentee votes cast for Third Ward Councilmember on accurate ballots are counted?”
In its July 22 order, the court also awarded as-yet-unspecified attorney fees to Dascola. As part of the lawsuit that put Dascola on the ballot, the city was already paying Wieder $30,731 in attorney’s fees and costs.
In addition to the description of the procedures it will use to ensure compliance with the court’s order on ballot counting, the city also must respond by July 23 to a show cause order from the court, explaining why the events that led to the omission of Dascola’s name do not amount to contempt of court.