Petition signatures ruling revives hopes for 2 candidates

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

At least two judicial candidates who felt they were destined to be left off Michigan ballots this August for not meeting state requirements for collecting petition signatures got new life Wednesday, thanks to a U.S. District Court order.

In a 16-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Terrence E. Berg granted an injunction against Michigan’s State Elections Office for excluding Shakira Hawkins, a Wayne Circuit Court candidate, and Lynn Maison, who is running for a Macomb County Probate Court seat.

Both candidates had intervened in a federal lawsuit against the state filed by attorney Eric Esshaki, a Republican congressional hopeful from Birmingham. Esshaki and others had argued that COVID-19 pandemic and specifically Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Stay-At-Home orders prevented them from collecting the statutory signatures needed to appear on the ballot.

Esshaki’s issues had been cleared up April 20, with the state establishing that 50% of the required signatures needed to have been collected by an earlier date.

But Hawkins and Maison feared they were shut out from their respective races because of other election technicalities, according to Hawkins’s attorney, Saura Sahu. Berg permitted them to be covered by the earlier ruling and expanded the deadline for signatures to be submitted until o this Friday, May 22.

“I think it is fantastic,” said Sahu. “It was a smart and reasonable remedy ruling by the court that assures every worthy candidate has a place on the primary ballot while allowing the state to conduct an orderly election.”

It was not known how many primary candidates might be impacted by Berg’s order, which said it will be considered sufficient for a candidate to have collected 50% of the signatures required by the state elections office.

According to court records, as of an extended filing deadline of May 8, 151 candidates had filed nominating petitions with the Bureau of Elections. Of those, 17 had filed more than 50% but fewer than the 100% of the total signatures normally required.

Calls to the state elections office from The News seeking response were not returned Wednesday. Esshaki declined to weigh in on issues concerning others and Maison’s attorney could not be reached for comment.

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