State says election officials went too far taking Flint mayoral candidate off ballot

GENESEE COUNTY, MI — The county Election Commission kicked Flint mayoral candidate Greg Eason off the August primary ballot Monday, June 10, but it didn’t necessarily have the authority to do so, the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office says.

Two spokesmen for the agency told MLive-The Flint Journal that state law doesn’t appear to give county election officials the authority to take the action it did — removing a candidate from the ballot because of errors in an affidavit of identity.

Michael Doyle, communications manager for Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, said in an email to The Journal that there are “multiple issues” involved in the Flint election controversy, which will likely be resolved by Genesee Circuit Judge Joseph Farah.

Farah has scheduled a hearing Monday on a lawsuit filed Monday by Don Pfeiffer, one of four candidates certified to run for mayor by the office of City Clerk Inez Brown.

Pfeiffer claims not only Eason but incumbent Mayor Karen Weaver and state Rep. Sheldon Neeley, D-Flint, made errors in paperwork filed with the city clerk and says that he alone should be on the primary ballot.

“With respect to what is going on with Flint, it is our understanding that there are multiple issues here, some which aren’t directly addressed by election law,” Doyle said. “With respect to the county Election Commission’s action to remove a city candidate from the ballot, this would seem to conflict with election law which states that city election commissions (not county election commissions) are responsible for certifying city candidates to the ballot.”

Doyle said the state has not analyzed whether Brown’s office followed the provisions in the city charter for certifying candidates.

“Given there are numerous issues involved and that a candidate has filed a lawsuit, the most appropriate course of action is to await the outcome of the lawsuit,” Doyle said.

Eason was certified to run for mayor on April 26 by Brown’s office, but he mistakenly checked “no” in paperwork he filed in response to questions about whether he was a registered voter in Flint, a U.S. citizen and met all the requirements for mayoral candidacy.

The errors were fixed in an amended affidavit, but the Election Commission said Eason should not have been allowed onto the ballot because the changes came too late in the process.

The county election panel is comprised by Clerk-Register John Gleason, Treasurer Deb Cherry, and Chief Probate Judge Jennie Barkey.

Brown said Tuesday, June 11, that she also believes the commission over-stepped its authority in taking Eason off the primary ballot and said voters shouldn’t lose the right to vote for whichever candidate they support.

“Gleason needs to stay in his lane. He’s gone beyond where he needs to be,” Brown said. “He always finds a way to intrude (in city elections). If I sound angry with him, it’s because I am.”

Barkey, the chairwoman of the Election Commission, cited state law Monday when she suggested that Eason’s name be pulled from the ballot.

She said Tuesday that no one from the Secretary of State’s Office has provided any guidance to the commission since the vote to remove him.