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Weird: Names on Michigan Sault election ballot aren't running for office

City clerk blames conflict between state law and local election rules for improbable scenario
Anyone wanting to vote for incumbent Mayor Anthony Bosbous or his opponent Ray Bauer will be forced to hand-write their names on the ballot. The Michigan Bureau of Elections won't allow the printed ballot to contain the names of anyone who actually wants to be elected

The general election to be held Nov. 7 in the Michigan Sault for mayor and three City Commission seats will be one of the most surreal in municipal election history.

The printed ballots voters will receive will not contain the names of anyone who wants to occupy those offices.

There will only be two names on the ballot, both individuals who aren't running for anything.

This improbable scenario has arisen because the City of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan either wasn't aware of or disregarded a five-year-old state requirement that candidates file their paperwork with the city clerk by the 15th Tuesday preceeding the election.

That would be Apr. 25, 2017.

But the Michigan Sault's city charter allows nominating petitions (signed by 50 to 100 voters) to be submitted until the 12th Tuesday, May 16.

Robin Troyer, the city clerk and deputy city manager who accepted late paperwork from all the otherwise-eligible candidates, frames this as a "conflict" between state law and local election procedures.

But Sally Williams, Michigan's director of elections, insists that the state deadline "supercedes any other deadline purportedly set by a city charter."

"There is no remedy in law that would permit your office to grant candidates an extension of time for filing nominating petitions, even if the candidates relied on your announcement regarding the deadline," Williams said in a letter sent to Troyer this week.

"Therefore, any candidates who did not file nominating petitions by 4 p.m. on Apr. 25, 2017 are ineligible to have their names printed on the Nov. 7, 2017 ballot," Williams said.

That means that incumbent Mayor Anthony Bosbous and his opponent Ray Bauer will not be on the printed ballot.

Neither will the names of Dan Campbell, Robert Casey, Shane Miller, Tim Talentino and Kathy Twardy, who all filed paperwork seeking seats on the City Commission.

Ironically, the only names that Michigan's Bureau of Elections will allow on the Nov. 7 ballot are Abby Baker and Greg Collins, neither of whom are seeking election.

Baker was appointed in May to fill the unexpired term created by the resignation of commissioner Brent Osterhout.

Collins was chosen last week to serve the unexpired term left by the resignation of commissioner Jay Gage.

The Bureau of Elections says that Bosbous, Bauer, Campbell, Casey, Miller, Talentino and Twardy may only run as write-in candidates.

To do so, they are required to fill declarations of intent by Oct. 27.

Write-in votes are not counted unless they are cast for candidates with completed declarations of intent.

Write-in candidates are elected if they receive more votes than any other candidate for the office.

There is no minimum number of write-in votes.

"We acknowledge that the Sault Ste. Marie city charter was amended in 2010 to harmonize filing deadlines for city offices with the former 12-week filing deadline that was created under prior state law," the Bureau of Elections says in its letter to the City of Sault Ste. Marie.

"These efforts are commendable, but regrettably cannot correct the fact that nominating petitions were filed and accepted after the statutory deadline had passed."

David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans six decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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