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Rogers, Slotkin, survive ballot scrutiny in Michigan, others not so lucky

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The Michigan Board of State Canvassers wrapped two days’ worth of meetings about challenges and concerns with candidate nominating petitions Monday afternoon.

The board had to decide whether nearly 30 campaigns for public office had submitted an adequate number of signatures to appear on the November ballot.

Some of the candidates, like Democratic U.S. Representative Elissa Slotkin, easily survived challenges to their signature total.

Slotkin is running for Michigan’s open U.S. Senate seat. One of her primary opponents had challenged some of the signatures on her nominating petitions, arguing they were invalid.

But the Board of State Canvassers sided with a staff report. The state Bureau of Elections found Slotkin had enough signatures to make it regardless of the challenge.

Her attorney, Chris Trebilcock, said there should be protections against baseless challenges.

“That, when you submit them, you certify that there is a valid reason in fact or law for the challenge. And that, if the board finds that it's not, and it’s designed to annoy or harass, that there can be some sanctions imposed for those,” Trebilcock said.

But one of the reasons the certification meeting spanned two days was campaigns, interested parties, and their lawyers going through opponents' nominating petitions and finding flaws to raise before the board.

The Michigan Democratic Party had raised its own concerns with nearly all of the Republican candidates running for Senate. Among the concerns was that some alleged fraudsters had collected signatures for the campaigns, including frontrunner Mike Rogers.

Democrats claimed their work should be questioned. But it raised those issues after the state’s challenge deadline had passed.

At Friday’s Board of State Canvassers meeting, Trebilcock, who also appeared on behalf of the Michigan Democratic Party, argued statute still gave the board leeway to consider the concerns.

“This board does have a duty and the authority to look into the genuineness of signatures outside of the challenge procedure,” he said.

The Bureau of Elections, however, stood by its staff report deeming Rogers had collected enough valid signatures after using a combination of random sampling and facial validity tests to decide.

Rogers lawyer Eric Doster echoed those findings during his turn to speak.

“They did review everything that Mr. Trebilcock is asking the board to do,” Doster said.

Doster mentioned a broader Bureau of Elections staff report concerning evidence of signature fraud this election cycle that had named people suspected of committing fraud.

During a follow-up conversation Monday, Elections Director Jonathan Brater said his office would be recommending anyone suspected of breaking the law for further investigation by state authorities.

Aside from signature challenges, many campaigns ran into issues relating to not complying with the letter of the law when it came to their nominating petitions.

That’s an issue businessman Nasser Beydoun ran into in his race for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination.

Elections staff found Beydoun filled out his nominating petitions incorrectly by listing a P.O. box instead of his home address. It invalidated the more than 20,000 signatures he had submitted.

Beydoun said state law about that was misleading. He called the issue “a minor technicality.”

"To kick you off the ballot because of a P.O. Box, I think that’s a travesty when it comes to the democratic process here in Michigan and across the nation,” Beydoun said Friday.

But Brater maintained the courts have previously ruled a P.O. box does not count as an address when it comes to nominating petitions.

Beydoun pledged to pursue ballot access in court after Friday’s meeting.

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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