Will Duggan be removed from Detroit mayoral ballot? Decision to come as early as today

Mike DugganThe Detroit Elections Commission will meet this afternoon to decide whether Detroit mayoral candidate Mike Duggan should be removed from the primary ballot for violating the city’s charter for running for office.

Claims that Duggan violated residency requirements were dismissed as fantasy earlier this week, but opponents have demonstrated a legitimate beef.  The city charter clearly requires mayoral candidates to be registered voters for at least a year before they file to become official candidates.

Duggan’s April 2 filing came two weeks before he was a registered Detroit voter for a full year.

But state law measures residency by the deadline to file, not the actual filing date. In that case, Duggan was a registered voter for 13 months by the May 14 filing deadline.

Ken Harris, a member of the Detroit Charter Commission that wrote the charter, said the Elections Commission should interpret the literal language, which would disqualify Duggan’s candidacy.

“In essence, I supported the residency requirement to safeguard proper representation of the Detroit taxpayer, voter and resident,” Harris said. “In political economies such as Detroit’s, residents should have a voice at every level of government and its necessary accountability, without the influence of special interests. We eliminated any ambiguity, leaving virtually no wiggle room for misinterpretation of the new law adopted by the citizens during the Detroit Charter Revision process.”

Former Charter Commissioner Chairwoman Jenice Mitchell Ford, who is a lawyer, said the onus will be on the commission to interpret the law.

“I leave the interpretation of the charter to those who are charged with doing so,” said Ford, noting the conflict between the city charter and state campaign laws.

The three-member Elections Commission is composed of City Clerk Janice Winfrey, City Council President Charles Pugh and interim Corporation Counsel Edward Keelean.

But the commission’s decision may not be final. Decisions can be appealed, and community activist Robert Davis is urging Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to issue an opinion on the issue.

What do you think? Should Duggan be forced off the ballot for filing too early? 

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.