The Michigan House voted 92-13 on Wednesday afternoon to send the League-supported House Bill 4892 (Chatfield) over to the Senate for their consideration. The bill had moved out of the House Elections & Ethics committee earlier Wednesday morning and is on a tight schedule for completion in order to be effective during the current election cycle. This bill provides an avenue for local candidates, who relied on incorrect filing deadline information and were subsequently prevented from appearing on the upcoming November election ballot, to have the filing deadline extended to include their names. Officials from the cities of Sault Ste. Marie and Tecumseh were in Lansing to testify with the MML and their local State Representatives, Rep. Lee Chatfield and Rep. Bronna Kahle, in support of the bill.
Recent situations in these two communities brought this issue to the forefront when they discovered that their city charter deadline provisions were no longer in compliance with recent state law changes.
Legislation passed in late 2012 moved all candidate filings from the 12th week prior to the election back three weeks to the 15th week prior to the election.
Officials in these two communities -Tecumseh and Sault Ste. Marie – realized this discrepancy too late and a number of candidates for city council and mayor were precluded from appearing on the ballot. In working with their local legislators and the League, we were able to craft language in HB 4892 (duplicated in SB 526-Schmidt) that is a mirror image to what was done in 2015 when the City of Flint encountered a similar situation and needed a change in the state election law to get that city’s mayoral candidates back on the ballot. Today’s action moves the bill forward as a way to allow a community that utilized an incorrect filing deadline to work with the Secretary of State’s Bureau of Elections to accommodate those candidates that otherwise would have qualified for the November ballot.
Swift action is needed in the Legislature to ensure that all ballots are printed and military and overseas ballots are mailed by September 23rd.
The Michigan Municipal League will be working to get the bill brought up and acted upon next week in the Michigan Senate.
Communities utilizing filing deadline or other election dates within their charter need to be aware of state election law changes and make the necessary adjustments to their internal processes or charter amendments to protect themselves from encountering this same issue. The Secretary of State’s Bureau of Elections publishes an election calendar each year with all of the relevant filing and election process dates outlined. Communities are encouraged by the Bureau to track these dates closely to avoid being out of compliance with state law.
The League will be working with the Bureau of Elections and the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks as we move forward from HB 4892 to promote a more robust level of communication and education on key election deadlines and law changes.
Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state & federal affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 and [email protected].