Michigan’s Secretary of State has asked the federal district court to be allowed as an intervening party to an action that is currently pending before the court – on the question of how to count ballots in the city of Ann Arbor Ward 3 Democratic primary.
The motion on behalf of the Secretary of State was filed by the Michigan Attorney General on Friday, July 11. [.pdf of July 11, 2014 motion to intervene]
In-person voting for the election takes place on Aug. 5, 2014. But the point in dispute concerns ballots that were printed incorrectly and sent to absentee voters. The question of counting votes has arisen because the incorrectly printed ballots omitted 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.
Just a few days after the roughly 400 incorrectly-printed ballots were sent out, the city sent out replacement ballots with a letter of instructions. The city is making additional efforts to contact voters who sent in an incorrectly-printed ballot – to reduce the potential number of ballots that might eventually be in dispute. The disputed question is whether to count any votes in the Ward 3 race that are might cast on an incorrectly printed ballot.
Amid the ballot-counting controversy, the candidates continue to campaign for the seat to represent Ward 3 in the city of Ann Arbor – a ward that has historically seen some close primary races. In 2009, the margin achieved by Stephen Kunselman over the Ward 3 incumbent, Leigh Greden, was just six votes.
All three candidates appeared in a League of Women Voters candidate forum earlier this week. Chronicle coverage in ”Ward 3 Candidate Forum: CTN Broadcast” includes an embedded video player for playing back the forum, along with a transcript in a scrollable text box.
The Ward 3 candidates are also invited to participate in the Ann Arbor Democratic Party city council candidate forum, scheduled for Saturday, July 12 at 10 a.m. at the Ann Arbor Community Center, 625 N. Main St. The Chronicle is planning to provide a live audio feed from that event.
The Secretary of State’s current position is that votes in the Ward 3 race that are cast with the incorrectly printed ballots should still be counted – if no replacement ballot is sent in by the voter. That’s a reversal of the state’s own position taken when the question was first considered. The state is asking the federal court to be allowed as an intervening party, in order to put its arguments in front of the court. The state’s motion to intervene comes after Bob Dascola’s attorney, Tom Wieder, filed a motion at the beginning of the week – on Monday, July 7 – seeking to prevent the city of Ann Arbor from counting Ward 3 votes cast on defective ballots.
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 is beginning to contemplate the steps necessary to make a change to those eligibility requirements.
The city’s response to Wieder’s motion, filed two days later, took no position on the question of how the ballots should be counted. But the entire response brief, including exhibits, runs 49 pages. [.pdf of city of Ann Arbor's July 9, 2014 response] The reply from Wieder on Dascola’s behalf was filed the following day. [.pdf of July 10, 2014 reply brief]