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Michigan elections chief ordered to court

Oct. 4, 2012 at 11:14 AM   |   Comments

DETROIT, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson was ordered to appear in court Friday for a hearing on the use of citizenship check-off boxes on voter applications.

Johnson's office filed an emergency motion Monday asking U.S. District Judge Paul Borman to allow Elections Director Christopher Thomas to appear instead at the hearing in Detroit, the Detroit Free Press reported Thursday.

Borman had not ruled on that request as of Wednesday, court records indicated.

Johnson's attorneys argued she had immunity under the 11th Amendment's limits on citizens' ability to sue states and that she should not be compelled to testify where a lower-ranking official has the authority and knowledge.

Attorneys for a voter-rights coalition that filed a lawsuit challenging the use of the citizen check-off argued that the Johnson motion be dismissed, saying Johnson is the state's top election officer and was responsible for the decision to include the box on applications to vote and absentee voter ballots. The coalition argued that the question is unconstitutional and violates state law.

Johnson's attorneys on Wednesday asked the court for an order barring plaintiffs from offering evidence or testimony on the legal authority of the secretary of state to issue instructions concerning the citizenship question on the applications, the Free Press said. They also asked that local clerks be barred from testifying about why they ignored Johnson's instructions insofar as their rationale was based on a perceived lack of legal authority or perceived violations of state law.

Coalition attorney Mary Ellen Gurewitz said clerks in several counties would either not use applications with the citizenship question or black out the question.

Topics: Ruth Johnson
© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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