Ann Arbor City Council Candidate Wins Ballot Access Lawsuit Even Though All Sides Agree Residency Requirement is Constitutional

Ann Arbor, Michigan, requires candidates for city council to have lived in their ward for at least one year before running, and also to have been a registered voter in the ward for at least a year. On May 20, 2014, Robert Dascola won a U.S. District Court order putting him on the ballot in the August 5 Democratic primary, even though he does not meet the registration requirement and even though all sides agree that the city’s residency-registration requirement would be constitutional if it were enacted at this time.

In the early 1970’s, federal courts inside the Sixth Circuit believed that residency requirements for candidates violate the U.S. Constitution, and struck down many of them, including the Ann Arbor requirements. The city did not appeal these 1971 and 1972 decisions, but left the requirements in the city charter, although they weren’t enforced.

Later, the Sixth Circuit realized that modest duration of residency requirements for candidates do not violate the U.S. Constitution, and started upholding them. Ann Arbor city officials were aware of this change in the law, and started enforcing the city’s requirements again. Dascola filed a federal lawsuit, and U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Zatkoff, a Reagan appointee, ruled on May 20 that because Ann Arbor didn’t appeal the 1971 and 1972 cases against it, its requirements are now void, even though in theory the city is free to re-enact them at any time. Dascola v City of Ann Arbor, eastern district, 2:14cv-11296. See this story.

Now the city and Dascola are arguing over whether absentee ballots that were mailed out without Dascola’s name on them should be counted. All the voters who received a faulty ballot have been sent a second ballot, but the controversy is what to do with voters who return the first, faulty ballot, instead of the second corrected ballot. Thanks to Nicholas Madaj for the link.


Ann Arbor City Council Candidate Wins Ballot Access Lawsuit Even Though All Sides Agree Residency Requirement is Constitutional — No Comments

  1. It was an odd set of circumstances that he was left off the ballot – it wasn’t so simple that the decision was after ballots had been mailed.

    He was originally left off the ballot. After the court decision, the city’s election vendor was informed. The vendor added Dascola’s name to the ballot, and the ballot was proofed by the both city and county clerks.

    Then Ypsilanti, another city in Washtenaw County, told the vendor that uncontested primaries for its city council should be remover from the ballot, based on a Ypsilanti charter provision.

    The vendor mixed up Ypsilanti with Ann Arbor (easy to do because of the similarity in spelling) and removed the Ann Arbor city council races from the ballot.

    When the vendor put the Ann Arbor races back on the ballot, and removed the Ypsilanti races, they pulled up the original set of city council candidates, and left off Dascola. Apparently this time the clerks proofed it, Ann Arbor on, check; Ypsilanti off, check.

    When the absentee ballots went out late in June, some voters caught the mistake, and new corrected ballots were sent out. The city clerk is also trying to contact by phone those voters who have returned the erroneous first ballot.

    The SOS had provided a legal interpretation that any mailed back ballots from the first erroneous printing should not be counted for the city council race. But the SOS office then reversed itself and said that if only one ballot is returned it should be counted.

    Conceivably some voters might see the updated ballot, and think, I didn’t vote for Dascola, so no reason to send in a corrected ballot. And some voters might not receive the corrected ballot, or receive it and misplace it. In addition the ballot has a write-in space, so some voters might write in Dascola’s name on the original ballot.

    Dascola has now filed to have any first printing ballots not be counted.

    Hopefully the race will not be close. Or hopefully it will be based on if you like chaos.

  2. Sue the morons for damages.

    NEW election – to be paid for by the morons ???

    Filing deadlines about a year before each election ???

    — time enough for SCOTUS to rule on any screwups ???

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