DEARBORN — The Michigan Court of Appeals has sided with State Rep. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) in a lawsuit challenging her eligibility to be on the ballot in her run for the third State Senate district this primary election.
Judges Michael Riordan, Christopher Murray and Cynthia Stephens decided unanimously on June 6 that Wayne County Circuit Court Chief Judge Robert Colombo Jr. ruled correctly that the Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett has no power to determine Santana’s eligibility to run.
Colombo ruled on March 29 that the lawsuit, filed by Dearborn resident Michael Bsharah, asked Garrett to go beyond her duties to determine if Santana was truthful in an affidavit of identity she signed.
The Michigan Court of Appeals agreed because, “Garrett did not have a clear legal duty to go beyond the face of the affidavit and consider whether Santana’s affidavit of identity was truthful and whether the crime of perjury had been committed,” stated the court’s decision.
It continued to say that the issue of trustfulness was a question for the Wayne County Prosecutor to consider.
Bsharah had raised concerns to the Secretary of State’s Bureau of Elections and the Wayne County Clerk’s Election Division on May 2 that Santana had not paid $2,000 in fees from her 2017 campaign for the ninth district, before filing to run this year. The Secretary of State’s Office notified her campaign of the dues last October and December.
But in a victory for Santana, Garrett responded three weeks after Bsharah filed the complaint, saying the candidate had completed all required paperwork and that “Michigan law does not give the County Clerk investigative powers to determine the truth or falsity of a candidate’s affirmation” in the campaign finance report or affidavit of identity.
Election law states that all requirements for affidavits of identity, including ensuring all statements, reports, late filing fees and fines required of the candidate or candidate committee, have been filed or paid and need to be completed for candidates’ names to appear on the ballot.
The affidavits also include disclaimers that making a false statement is punishable by up to $1,000 in fines and up to five years’ imprisonment.
Santana signed and submitted the affidavit on January 12, but it wasn’t until 11 days later that a “campaign finance fee credit” showed that the payment was received by the election bureau.
In a statement last week, Santana said the challenge to disqualify her was an attempt to disenfranchise voters and that she had no knowledge of outstanding fees when she signed the affidavit and said she immediately paid her dues after being notified by the Secretary of State on Jan. 23.
In a statement, Santana welcomed the court’s decision.
“I sincerely hope that Michael Bsharah will now find something more productive to do instead of filing pointless legal challenges, motions and appeals on behalf of Gary Woronchack,” Santana said.
Santana and Woronchak are competing for the state senate seat vacated by State Senator Morris Hood who is term limited. Both candidates are Democrats, the Primary is on Tuesday, August 7, 2 018.