Lansing — A judge is ordering Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to respond to new ballot challenges filed against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed and whether they affect his request for an eligibility determination.

Johnson last month asked the Michigan Court of Claims to dismiss El-Sayed’s request for a declaratory judgment, calling it “premature” because no one had officially challenged his ballot status.

The situation changed when Democratic primary rival Shri Thanedar and three other voters filed formal challenges against El-Sayed with the Michigan Bureau of Elections.

Court of Claims Judge Christopher Murray on Monday ordered Johnson and her attorneys to file a new legal brief explaining how the challenges affect “her argument that no case or controversy exists.” The filing is due Wednesday.

El-Sayed has faced eligibility questions because of his voter registration history in New York. While his campaign has insisted he’s eligible and called it a “manufactured controversy,” the Michigan native and former Detroit health department director asked for a court determination in March.


The Detroit News' Richard Burr and Jonathan Oosting discuss the Michigan governor's race in the first of a series of shows on the 2018 elections.

The Michigan Constitution requires any candidate for governor to be a registered elector in the state at least four years prior to the election.

Bridge Magazine reported that El-Sayed was registered to vote in New York from October 2012 through at least March 2015. State records show he also was continually registered to vote in Michigan since 2003 but had been placed on “cancellation countdown status” because of his New York registration.

El-Sayed is polling third in recent surveys of the Democratic field but has emerged as a favorite of the progressive left. He was endorsed Saturday by Our Revolution, a national group that grew out of Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.

He is competing for the Democratic nomination against Thanedar and former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing, who entered the race as the early favorite and has racked up most traditional labor endorsements.

El-Sayed last week also challenged petition signatures that Thanedar submitted in an attempt to qualify for the primary ballot, alleging significant collection errors, signature issues and questions over the validity and genuineness of specific circulator certificates.

The Bureau of Elections is reviewing challenges against several candidates and will recommend action to the Board of State Canvassers, which is expected to meet this month to certify the official candidate list for the Aug. 7 primary election.

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