In disqualifying Mike Duggan, judges disenfranchise Detroit voters
Just a month ago, former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan was a front-runner in the campaign to succeed Dave Bing as mayor of Michigan’s largest city.
Now he is a man without a place on the August primary ballot, the victim of a cynical collusion between a jealous mayoral rival and appellate judges bent on subordinating the rights of voters to their own judicial prerogative.
Tuesday’s Michigan Court of Appeals ruling sustaining Duggan’s disqualification — on the absurd grounds that he violated Detroit’s charter by turning his campaign petitions in too far in advance of the May 14 qualifying deadline — likely marks the end of a mayoral campaign that has been under way for two years. Barring an unlikely reversal by the state Supreme Court, Duggan has little or no chance to contest the ruling before Saturday, the statutory deadline to print ballots for Detroit’s Aug. 6 mayoral primary.
But make no mistake: The real victims of Tuesday’s ruling are Detroit voters, who have once again watched the judicial system that is supposed to protect their voting rights be exploited in order to trample them.
Until perennial also-ran Tom Barrow asked the courts to intervene in the mayoral election last month, no one in Detroit’s Election Department had challenged Duggan’s eligibility. Not City Clerk Janice Winfrey, whose office assured Duggan that he was complying with the law when he filed his qualifying petitions last April 2. Not the nonpartisan Detroit Elections Board, which explicitly rejected Barrow’s objections when it certified Duggan’s candidacy last month.
Yet, if we are to believe the Court of Appeals panel that struck Duggan from the ballot Tuesday, “the language of the charter could not be any more clear or unambiguous”: Duggan was legally forbidden to file his nominating petitions until April 12, the first anniversary of his registration as a resident of Detroit. By submitting them in advance of that deadline, Judges Christopher Murray and Michael Talbot insist, Duggan forfeited his eligibility for the Aug. 6 primary.
The absurdity of the court’s reasoning is self-evident.
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