Clerk: Dascola Not Eligible for Ward 3 Council

Updated March 14, 2014: According to local attorney Tom Wieder, who is representing Dascola in the matter, court cases dating from the early 1970s struck down a section of the city charter cited by the city clerk in determining Dascola was ineligible. More details are appended at the end of this news brief. A longer treatment can be found here: “Dascola to Assert Right to Run in Ward 3

Although he previously announced his intention to compete in the Ward 3 Democratic primary election to be held on Aug. 5, 2014, Bob Dascola is not eligible to compete in this year’s race, according to the Ann Arbor city clerk’s office. Dascola is owner of Dascola Barbers on State Street.

Dascola took out petitions on March 12, but was subsequently informed by the clerk’s office that he was not eligible to represent Ward 3. According to city clerk Jacqueline Beaudry, Dascola did not meet the city charter requirement that a candidate for city council be a registered voter of the city and a resident of the ward to be represented for at least a year preceding election. From the city charter:

Except as otherwise provided in this charter, a person is eligible to hold a City office if the person has been a registered elector of the City, or of territory annexed to the City or both, and, in the case of a Council Member, a resident of the ward from which elected, for at least one year immediately preceding election or appointment.

The only eligible candidate so far to take out petitions to run in the Ward 3 Democratic primary is Julie Grand, who also competed in the August 2013 primary. Incumbent Stephen Kunselman received more votes than Grand in that race. Kunselman is not up for re-election in 2014, but is running for mayor, along with three other councilmembers: Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Sally Petersen (Ward 2) and Christopher Taylor (Ward 3). Because he cannot simultaneously run for mayor and run to retain his Ward 3 seat on the council, Taylor’s decision to run for mayor leaves that seat open.

Petitions for the partisan primary in August 2014 must be turned in by April 22. For councilmembers, 100 signatures are required from their ward. For mayor, the requirement is for 50 signatures from each of the city’s five wards, for a total of 250 signatures.

Updated: According to local attorney Tom Wieder, who is representing Dascola in the matter, court cases dating from the early 1970s struck down the section of the city charter cited by the city clerk in determining Dascola was ineligible. 

The city clerk’s office issued petitions to Dascola on March 12. But subsequently, Dascola was notified that he did not meet the charter’s residency requirement. However, the actual criterion on which his ineligibility appears to have been determined was not the one-year residency requirement, but rather the charter’s one-year voter registration requirement. Reached by phone late Friday, Dascola told The Chronicle he registered to vote in the city on Jan. 15, 2014. 

The ruling for one case cited by Wieder in a phone interview with The Chronicle was handed down on Dec. 30, 1972 1971 from U.S. District Court judge Lawrence Gubow, according to Ann Arbor News coverage at the time. It earned the headline, “Year-In-Ward Rule For Council Voided.” However, the coverage from the News indicates that only the residency requirement was ruled unconstitutional – not the voter registration requirement:

Judge Gubow ruled only on the one-year residency requirement, and did not rule unconstitutional the charter language requiring that a person be a registered voter for at least a year before assuming elective office. [City attorney Jerold] Lax said persons seeking elective office will have to have the one year of voter registration, stating that he asked Judge Gubow specifically if his ruling went beyond the residency requirement. The answer was “no.”

Several court rulings on eligibility to vote and hold office were handed down nationwide in that general timeframe – after the 1971 enactment of the 26th amendment to the U.S. constitution, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.

Dascola told The Chronicle that he did not plan to start collecting signatures until the issue had been clarified.


  1. March 14, 2014 at 8:00 pm | permalink

    I’m glad that Dascola has excellent representation. I hope he gets to run.

  2. By Tom Wieder
    March 14, 2014 at 10:41 pm | permalink

    The Charter requirement that a candidate for city office must be a registered voter in the city for one year before the election was found to be in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and declared “unconstitutional and void” in the case of Human Rights Party, et al v. City of Ann Arbor, decided by the United States District Court in March 1972. It has no force and effect and cannot be used to keep Bob Dascola off the ballot. It is our hope that the city will recognize this. If not, we will be filing suit in the District Court to compel the city to accept and process his nominating petitions and will seek an award of attorney fees for the violation of Mr. Dascola’s constitutional rights.

  3. By Jack Eaton
    March 15, 2014 at 9:16 am | permalink

    The update notes “The ruling for one case … was handed down on Dec. 30, 1972 … according to Ann Arbor News coverage at the time.” and links to a scanned news article that has a hand written date of December 31, 1971. Did the court rule in 1971 or 1972?

    The linked article notes that the Human Rights Party was not involved directly in the suit. Mr. Wieder’s comment (2) mentions a case named Human Rights Party v. Ann Arbor decided in March 1972. Are these two separate cases and decisions?

    Thanks for the timely news and especially the update.

  4. March 15, 2014 at 10:41 am | permalink

    Re: “Did the court rule in 1971 or 1972?” I’ve corrected the article to match the hand-written notation on the newspaper scan for the Daniel Feld case, which is 1971. That was a simple mistake, not a belief, based on some other reason, that the year was different from 1971.

    Re: “Are these [Human Rights Party case and Daniel Feld case] two separate cases and decisions?” Yes, I believe they are.

    Based on Tom Wieder’s comment [2], it sounds like the U.S. District Court first struck down the residency part of the city charter requirement in late 1971, then a few months later, struck down the registered voter part in 1972. We’re trying to track down some details on that, as well as the 2001 Wojack case, when Scott Wojack was allowed to run for Ward 1 after filing a lawsuit when he was first told he could not, based on the charter’s eligibility requirement. According to a July 30, 2005 Ann Arbor News article, after the November 2001 election, judge Timothy Connors [22nd Circuit Court] upheld the charter’s residency requirement in the Wojack case. That doesn’t seem to square up with the 1971 federal court ruling on exactly that question. So we continue to scrape together more information.

    Somewhat tangentially: The current city council does not seem enthusiastic about taking the necessary steps to establish a charter commission to review the city charter and recommend changes that could then be put in front of voters. But maybe we could settle for some direction from the council to the city attorney’s office to annotate the existing charter so that those sections that are no longer applicable (because they’ve been superseded or struck down) are footnoted.

  5. March 15, 2014 at 9:31 pm | permalink

    I was horrified to hear that some are quoting Tom Wieder (who no longer lives in the city) as saying that no residence requirement should be in place at all, that is, anyone from anywhere could run for Ann Arbor City Council.

    I hope that this is not being contemplated. That would fly in the face of the very concept of local representative government.

    I don’t have an opinion on the Dascola case, but I assume that in both the residency and the registration issues, the focus was on the length of status, not on the requirement for residency within the city and the ward from which the candidate is running.

  6. By Glacial Erratic
    March 16, 2014 at 5:30 pm | permalink

    Vivienne, I really value your dedication to making certain that every reader of the Chron knows your views on every issue of any kind without having to go to your own blog.