Shelby Twp. write-in primary candidate sues for fall ballot spot
Shelby Township — A township trustee candidate who ran a write-in campaign in this month's primary is suing the Macomb County clerk for refusing to put her name on the November ballot.
Alisa Diez's lawsuit, filed Monday in Macomb Circuit Court, alleges that county Clerk Fred Miller misinterpreted Michigan election law in denying her a spot on the ballot.
“We are aware of the complaint and will have a hearing next week,” said Miller, who declined further comment.
In a news release, Diez, a Democrat, said Miller has argued that as a write-in candidate in the primary, she had to receive at least 5% as many votes as the highest vote-getter across both parties. The Michigan Secretary of State's Office has said it agrees with Miller's interpretation.
Diez believes the wording of the law only required her to get 5% of the top vote-getter running for the same office on her own party’s primary ballot.
Diez, the first Democrat to run for office in Shelby Township in eight years, received 240 votes in the August primary. No Democrats qualified for the primary ballot.
The last Democrat to run for Shelby Township office was Clarence Cooke, who was a candidate for trustee in 2012, according to county election records. Cooke advanced to the general election, where he finished fifth, behind the four GOP candidates who were elected.
In the Republican primary between nine candidates, four qualified for the four trustees seats on the November ballot: Vince Viviano with 6,829 votes; Lisa Casali, 6,686; John Vermeulen, 5,419; and Lucia DiCicco, 5,190.
Diez is relying on a legal interpretation that she met the state election law requirement by receiving the greater of 10 votes or 15% of 1% of a community’s population under the last census. Shelby Township had 73,804 residents in the 2010 census, making the threshold 111 votes, she argues.
Under Miller's interpretation, Diez would need 341 votes.
“Fred Miller’s interpretation of this law is wrong … Alisa Diez was the only Democrat who filed for trustee in Shelby Township and is being denied access to the ballot,” said Jim Kelly, an attorney specializing in election law. “It is clear that Ms. Diez has earned the Democratic Party’s nomination for Shelby Township trustee; to continue to hold her off the ballot denies her the most basic rights to redress government and self governance.”
Miller said a hearing on the complaint will be Monday before Macomb Circuit Judge Jennifer Faunce.