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Lansing — A petition to recall state Rep. Larry Inman that was signed by nearly 14,000 northern Michigan residents will not be allowed to move forward after the state Bureau of Elections ruled the petition invalid.

The signatures will be tossed because of a single typographical error, in which the group omitted the word “right” when describing one of the federal charges against Inman: “Attempted extortion under color of official right.”

The omission of the word “right” constituted a difference between the wording initially approved by the Board of State Canvassers this summer and the wording presented to individuals signing the petition this fall, said Director of Elections Sally Williams in a Friday letter to the recall group.

"While the omission of one word may seem inconsequential and the rejection of a recall petition on such grounds as excessively technical and harsh, the recall statute does not authorize the bureau to excuse differences between the reasons for recall approved by the board and those printed on the recall petitions,” Williams wrote in the letter.

Organizers of the petition are “in shock and deeply disappointed,” said Kaitlin Flynn, manager for the Inman Recall campaign.

“We are evaluating all of our options,” Flynn said.

As recently as Thanksgiving Day, Flynn sent out a statement acknowledging the accidental omission of “right” and the misspelling of “diminished” in the petition but said the group remained confident the typos did not change “the substance or meaning of the reasons for the recall.”

“We engaged with nearly 14,000 people who signed the petition without any confusion and irrespective of the mistakes,” Flynn said in the Thursday statement. “The people have made it clear that we need new representation in Grand Traverse County. These superficial typos do not warrant suppressing the will of the voters.”

State law indicates that petitions should “strictly comply” with language requirements, not just attain “substantial compliance,” Williams wrote.

The deadline to certify the ballot for the March 10 election is Jan. 10, so any potential court challenge to the Bureau of Elections decision should be made prior to that date, Williams said.

Inman, a Traverse City-area Republican, will go to trial Tuesday on federal charges of bribery, extortion and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Authorities say Inman attempted to solicit campaign money from building trades unions ahead of a 2018 vote to repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law, which sets wage benchmarks for some public construction projects.

The building trades unions supported the law and opposed its repeal. 

Inman allegedly sent a representative for one building trades union a text message suggesting $5,000 in campaign contributions would not be enough for lawmakers to risk losing committee assignments if they voted against the repeal legislation supported by Republican leadership.

Inman has denied the charges and, after a few weeks in rehabilitation for opioid addiction treatment, returned to the House floor despite calls for his resignation.

eleblanc@detroitnews.com

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