A possible fix for faulty judicial ballot advice

A package of bills reported out of the Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee last week is coming too late to help the judicial candidate whose plight prompted the legislation in the first place.

Chris Martin was knocked off last November’s ballot. State election officials gave him faulty advice concerning how many signatures he needed on his nominating petitions.

The Michigan Lawyer followed Martin’s on-again, off-again ballot saga here, here and here.

Recall that Martin wanted to make a three-way race for two seats on the 23rd Circuit bench by running against the incumbents, Judges William Myles and Ronald Bergeron. The Secretary of State told Martin he needed between 100 and 200 signatures on his nominating petition.

This was bad advice: the actual number was between 200 and 400, which the incumbent judges strategically pointed out after the filing deadline passed and Martin submitted only 158 signatures.

The Secretary of State threw Martin off the ballot at the incumbents’ urgings. The Court of Appeals put him back on the ballot in a split decision. The Michigan Supreme Court tossed him back off.

Martin ran as a write-in candidate and received 11,011 votes, just 1,301 shy of knocking off Bergeron.

Senate Bills 0021 through 0024, sponsored by Senator Tony Stamas (R-Midland), would let judicial candidates for circuit, district, probate and municipal courts seek equitable relief if state or local election officials give them incorrect information that keeps them off the ballot.

No word on when the full Senate will consider the bills.

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