August 31, 2010 at 1:00 am

'Tea Party' not allowed to appear on fall ballot

Appeals court says group didn't meet state requirements

Lansing -- The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Monday "The Tea Party" can't put its candidates on the Nov. 2 ballot because it didn't correctly show the party name on petitions.

"At this point, the Court of Appeals ruled (The Tea Party) will not appear on the ballot," said Kelly Chesney, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land.

The ruling said the word "the" was not in 24-point bold face type on the petitions as required by law.

Republicans and tea party activists have criticized the group as a Democrat-backed attempt to mislead voters and siphon off conservative votes.

Last week, the Michigan Board of Canvassers deadlocked 2-2 over putting The Tea Party on the ballot, with the result that it would not appear. The group, which is headed by a man from the village of Reese with Democratic ties, appealed.

Michael Hodge, an attorney who represents the group, did not return calls or e-mails.

Norm Shinkle, the Republican chairman of the Board of State Canvassers who voted against The Tea Party appearing on the ballot, said the ruling means the "Court of Appeals did not go along with the fraud that was attempted to be put upon the people of the state of Michigan."

"The petition for the so-called Tea Party was brought in stealth, under cover," said Shinkle, who was part of the vote that paved the way for the Appeals ruling. The vote was split along party lines with Democrats voting for and Republicans against The Tea Party appearing on the ballot.

Shinkle said the organizers of The Tea Party didn't follow the rules and "get their petitions reviewed by the staff of the secretary of state."

"Had they had their petition reviewed, this mistake would have been corrected," Shinkle said. "This fake tea party may have been put on the ballot."

If it's appealed to the state Supreme Court, Shinkle said he hopes its members will review the law and deny the party access to the ballot. The Tea Party, led by UAW retiree Mark Steffek, had sought to put 38 candidates on the ballot. Steffek did not return a call from The News late Monday.

Another group had also sought to force the secretary of state to reject Steffek's Tea Party, saying it had improperly filed. That group claims to represent the conservative, grassroots movement that formed after the 2008 election. But the Court of Appeals rejected the request, saying it was moot because the Board of Canvassers had not put them on the ballot anyway.

"That is really good news," Gene Clem, spokesman for the Michigan Tea Party Alliance, said of the ruling. "The preponderance of information so far ... really points to that it was a nefarious effort. They weren't sincere to start with."

Detroit News Staff Writers Mike Wilkinson, Leonard Fleming and Associated Press contributed.