LANSING, Mich. (AP) – Michigan’s elections bureau on Wednesday rejected challenges to the candidacy of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed, declaring that he has been a continuously registered voter in the state for 15 years.
The challenges were brought by another Democrat running for governor – Shri Thanedar – and three other residents. They raised questions because El-Sayed studied, worked and voted in New York before moving back to Michigan in 2015 to run Detroit’s health department.
Provisions in the state constitution and election law say a gubernatorial candidate must have been a registered and “qualified” voter in Michigan for four years before the election.
In letters to the challengers, Bureau of Elections Director Sally Williams wrote that they cited no evidence to support allegations that he violated the four-year voter registration requirement. They alleged El-Sayed has not resided in Michigan for 22 years.
She acknowledged that El-Sayed obtained a New York driver’s license. But she added that his Michigan voter registration could not have been canceled unless the state received specific written confirmation that he changed his residence for voting purposes or until two straight federal elections passed without him voting in Michigan — neither of which occurred.
“As we expected, the Secretary of State has rejected this baseless political attack in an unprecedented confirmation of Abdul’s eligibility to serve as governor in his state,” El-Sayed spokesman Adam Joseph said in a statement. “While we anticipate that this definitive statement of fact by the Bureau of Elections won’t stop political opponents from persisting in their baseless smear campaign, Abdul’s supporters and everyday voters can be fully confident in their support of Abdul.”
El-Sayed and Thanedar, a wealthy businessman who is self-funding his campaign, are among three Democratic candidates along with former legislative leader Gretchen Whitmer.
Asked if he would contest the election bureau’s determination, Thanedar said: “We are thankful the Secretary of State’s office reviewed this matter and look forward to an open and vigorous debate on how we can move our state forward and help working families rise up.”
In March, El-Sayed went to court asking a judge to rule on his eligibility at the request of the Michigan Democratic Party. The case is pending before Court of Claims Judge Christopher Murray.
El-Sayed’s attorneys have argued that while he was physically living in New York City on Nov. 6, 2014 — four years before the general election — he remained at all times a resident of Michigan “because he had chosen Michigan (as) his permanent home, and maintained an intent to return.”
In a filing Wednesday, the state again urged that El-Sayed’s lawsuit be dismissed, contending that Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is not authorized to look beyond the registration information contained in a voter’s file and is not empowered to interpret the state constitution’s requirement that a gubernatorial candidate be a registered voter for four years before the election.
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