Inside and outside of Oakland

State board rejects party status for Tea Party group; could be decided in court

  A group calling itself the Tea Party was so far unsuccessful Monday in gaining political party status on the November ballot after objections from tea party movements and Republicans who say the group is a fake and designed to split Republican votes.
  The Michigan Board of State Canvassers voted 2-2 on a motion to give the group political party status, in effect denying them a spot on the ballot as a political party.

  The four-person board, two Republicans and two Democrats, were split in their voting, with the Republicans voting against giving the group political party status.
  Michael Hodge, attorney for the Tea Party group, indicated he would take the board's decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals as early as Wednesday, Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson said.
  Johnson, one of the Republicans seeking the nomination for secretary of state at the GOP state convention this weekend, said approval of the group's petitions would have set a dangerous precedent for Michigan elections.
  "You would expect to see more deceptive parties formed to fool voters," Johnson said after attending the canvassers' meeting in Lansing.
  "The ballot length would grow exponentially," she said. "It sets a very dangerous precedent that people could start all kinds of parties to try to deceive people."
  The two canvassers who voted against political party status did so on a technicality on the wording of the petitions. In some places, the group is called The Tea Party while it's just called Tea Party in others.
  The canvassers meeting in Lansing ran past its scheduled noon ending time as people who made the trip to Lansing, including Johnson, spoke about whether the Tea Party group should have political party status.
  Organizations that are part of the tea party movement have said they don't want to be a political party.
  Origins of the Tea Party group have been a question since the group filed 59,400 signatures in July seeking party status. It needed 38,013 valid signatures to be recognized in Michigan as a political party, according to state elections workers.
  Canvassers didn't address the number of valid signatures in their voting, but elections workers say there were 45,150 valid signatures on the petitions that were turned in.
  Republicans, like Johnson and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, have been adamant that the Tea Party group is a tool of Democrats to the influence the voting on Nov. 2.
  In this year's election, the offices of governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and attorney general are open because of term limits. Also on the November ballot are seats for Congress, the state Senate, state House, county commission, local school boards and city and village councils.
  Pushing the stakes higher is the fact that political district boundaries will be redrawn next year based on new U.S. Census data and the party that controls the Legislature will have a big say over the new boundaries of congressional districts and their own state House and Senate districts.
  Most recently on Friday, Johnson said some of the signatures on petitions filed for candidates of the Tea Party group appear to be fraudulent, and she singled out Jason Bauer, an employee of the Oakland County Democratic Party, as the notary on some of the paperwork.
  At her Friday news conference, Johnson said signatures on affidavits of identity of some candidates didn't appear to match the signatures on their voter registrations and that she had been contacted by one of the candidates, now living out of state, who said he didn't file to run for office and had no intention of running.
  Bauer resigned Sunday, according to the Oakland County Democratic Party.
  Whatever the outcome of a court challenge to the canvassers' decision, it'll have to happen fast.
  State elections workers say they have a Sept. 3 drop-dead date for a court decision in order to comply with state law and publish ballots with the candidates' names on them in time for the Nov. 2 election.
  "We have to be out 45 days ahead of time," Johnson, the Oakland County clerk said. "That's a lot of ballots. We have over 900,000 registered voters in Oakland County alone."
  Besides the Democratic and Republican parties, the only other parties certified to list candidates on the November ballot are the Libertarian Party, the Natural Law Party, the Green Party and the U.S. Taxpayers Party.
  Independent candidates will also appear on the ballot.
  Contact staff writer Charles Crumm at 248-745-4649, charlie.crumm@oakpress.com or follow him on Twitter @crummc. More election information is at 2010electioninoaklandcounty.blogspot.com.

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