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Opinion Date: 07/11/2013
e-Journal Date: 07/15/2013
Full Text Opinion

Practice Area(s):   Election Law

Issues: Whether a writ of "mandamus" and injunction could be issued; Stand Up for Democracy v. Secretary of State; Barrow v. Detroit Elec. Comm'n; MCL 168.552; MCL 168.554c; In re Certified Question; Department of Transp. v. Tomkins; Johnson v. Pastoriza; "Shall"; Michigan Educ. Ass'n v. Secretary of State (On Rehearing); "May"; Manuel v. Gill; In re Receivership of 11910 S. Francis Rd.; Miller-Davis Co. v. Ahrens Constr., Inc.; Whether plaintiff's nominating petitions complied with the charter provision and MCL 168.544c; MCL 168.552(7); MCL 168.552(6); Whether the trial court properly held that several signatures contained in the nominating petitions were improperly invalidated by the defendants; Whether the relief ordered by the trial court was appropriate; MCL 168.544c(1), (2), & (4); Whether the Legislature "did not provide for a valid petition signature that was without the actual signature of the individual, was without address, or was without date"; Whether any individual signature lines that were invalidated because the voter registration could not be confirmed by name and address were proper subjects of writ of mandamus; MCL 168.552(13); "Rebuttable presumption"; Department of Elections (DOE); Secretary of State (SOS)

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Published)
Case Name: Wilcoxon v. Detroit City Clerk
e-Journal Number: 55023
Judge(s): Per Curiam – Fort Hood, Wilder, and Stephens

The court held that the trial court properly ordered plaintiff's name to be placed on the 8/6/13 primary election ballot as a candidate for the office of Detroit City Clerk. Defendants failed to comply with their statutory duties as to review of nominating petitions and plaintiff had a clear legal right to performance. Further, in light of defendants' failure to afford plaintiff a meaningful review by the SOS, the trial court's consideration of plaintiff's third amended complaint for mandamus, superintending control, preliminary injunction and declaratory judgment was warranted under MCL 168.552(6). On 5/1/13, plaintiff filed nominating petitions for the office of City Clerk for the City of Detroit. Section 3-109 of the Detroit City Charter provides that the petition for a candidate who is seeking nomination to the office of City Clerk "shall be signed by not less than five hundred (500) signatures of qualified voters of the City of Detroit and not more than . . . one thousand (1,000) signatures of qualified voters of the City of Detroit." According to defendants, plaintiff's nominating petitions contained 561 signatures. After investigating the petitions, the city's DOE determined that 58 signatures were invalid, which left 503 valid signatures. On 5/7/13, B, of the City of Detroit DOE, sent plaintiff a letter stating that it had been determined that she had submitted "sufficient signatures" to qualify to have her name appear on the ballot for the primary election of 8/6/13. The letter did not state, nor explain, that the city clerk and the DOE had made a finding that 58 petition signatures were invalid. Following the 5/14/13 filing deadline for nominating petitions, a challenge to plaintiff's petition was filed with the DOE. On 5/22/13, B sent a letter to plaintiff advising her of the challenge, in particular to the circulator's oath. The Detroit Election Commission did not certify plaintiff as a candidate for Detroit City Clerk. The court held that it must consider whether plaintiff's nominating petitions complied with the charter provision and MCL 168.544c, which it emphasized was the only statutory provision that defendants focused on below and raised in their brief on appeal. Below, defendants raised an objection that plaintiff did not file the proper appeal as to the certification of petition signatures with either the SOS or with the trial court. On appeal, they summarily asserted the court should reverse because plaintiff failed to file a timely appeal with the SOS. The court disagreed, and held that plaintiff's complaint was properly before the trial court because defendants failed to comply with their statutory duties. The record was clear that while the DOE's initial canvass of plaintiff's nominating petitions resulted in the invalidation of 58 signatures for a variety of reasons, defendants made no "official declaration of the[se] findings." Thus, plaintiff was given no official or timely notice that defendants had invalidated these petition signatures. Defendants were required to issue an official declaration of the findings as to the invalidation of signatures. Thus, the court held that the indirect notice contained in B's 5/22/13 letter to plaintiff was inadequate to constitute the required official declaration of the sufficiency or insufficiency of petition signatures that defendants were required to make, and plaintiff was entitled to receive, under MCL 168.552(6) and (7). As such, plaintiff was also wrongfully deprived of any meaningful review by the SOS of the city clerk's determination that certain signatures were invalid. Affirmed.

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