Seven U.S. House candidates could lose ballot spots due to petition problems

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
Shri Thanedar

Seven candidates for Congress in Michigan are at risk of being denied a spot on the August primary ballot after staff for the state Board of Elections recommended their nominating petitions be deemed "insufficient." 

The staffers also rejected Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Abdul El-Sayed's challenge of Shri Thanedar's petition signatures that he had turned in to the Secretary of State's Office. 

They found Thanedar's petition contained at least 16,286 valid signatures -- more than the 15,000 required to qualify for the gubernatorial primary ballot. 

Election bureau staffers also determined state Sen. Tory Rocca's petition to be short of the 2,000 valid signatures required to get on the ballot for a Circuit Court judgeship in Macomb County.  

The petition of Rocca, R-Sterling Heights, was challenged by attorney and Rocca opponent Julie Gatti, who is also running for Macomb Circuit judge. 

The Board of State Canvassers is set to consider the staff reports on petition reviews when it meets Friday in Lansing. 

Congressional candidates whose petitions were deemed insufficient to qualify for the ballot are:

  • Democrat Matt Morgan, who is running to challenge freshman GOP Rep. Jack Bergman in northern Michigan's 1st District.
  • Democrat Dan Haberman and Republican Christine Bonds, who are running in the 11th District to succeed retiring Rep. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham. 
  • Democrats Paul Clements and Eponine Garrod, both running in the 6th District to challenge Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph.
  • Joe Farrington, who filed a GOP primary challenge against U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township.
  • Democrat Nick Schiller, running in the Democratic primary to challenge Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland. 

Morgan's petition problem is that his campaign used its post office box in the heading of the nominating petitions, rather than a street address. 

"The error is repeated on 195 of the 198 petition sheets filed by the candidate," the staff report says

Using a post office box number invalidates the sheet and all signatures on it, said a Michigan Bureau of Elections spokesman.

Morgan told The Detroit News last month that his campaign followed the instructions on the form and does not believe the issue should be a "fatal" one.

He said he intends to pursue "all legal means necessary" should the Board of State Canvassers decline to certify his petition. 

Two separate challenges were filed against Haberman, a Birmingham attorney and entrepreneur, alleging hundreds of signatures on his petition to be invalid. 

Dan Haberman of Troy is a Democrat running in the August 2018 primary in the 11th Congressional District

Staffers found that Haberman had submitted 944 valid signatures -- short of the 1,000 required for the congressional ballot -- and recommended his petition be disqualified. 

Kirby McCoy and Aimee McKeever, who is a member of the Michigan Education Association's Board of Directorsand president of the Pontiac Education Association, had filed the challenges against Haberman.

Haberman spokeswoman Jen Eyer said Wednesday the campaign is attempting to get clarity from the Bureau of Elections on some questions it has.

Bonds submitted 858 valid signatures -- also short of the 1,000 required -- which staffers flagged during their review. Her petition problems mostly related to individuals signing who were not registered in the district or to technical errors in the petition headings. 

Clements, a professor at Western Michigan University, ran unsuccessfully against Upton in 2014 and 2016. His petition was challenged by Andrew Davis, according to the staff report.

Paul Clements

Elections staff determined in their review that Clements had 991 valid signatures, disqualifying dozens of others because signers wrote the jurisdiction where they are registered to vote but marked the wrong designation for whether it's a city or township. 

Garrod, a chemist running for office for the first time, submitted 974 valid signatures, according to the staff report.  

Farrington, who lives in Lyons, turned in 843 valid signatures, per the staff review. Staffers knocked out names due to signers not being registered in the 3rd District or providing the incorrect jurisdiction of their voter registration, or signing more than once.  

His petition was challenged by Eric Larson, according to the staff report

Multiple election staff members reviewed the petition submitted by Schiller and decided it contained 109 signatures of "dubious authenticity," that is, they didn't match the signatures on file with the state.

With 738 valid signatures, staffers deemed his petition "insufficient." Schiller's petition was challenged by Joel Bryson.