Congressional candidate vows to push forward despite clerical glitch
MARQUETTE — Matt Morgan, the sole Democrat who filed to run for Michigan’s 1st Congressional District could be left off of the Aug. 7 primary ballot due to a problem with the petitions submitted to the state in support of his candidacy.
Campaign officials were notified Friday that the state Bureau of Elections will not recommend certification by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers of 1,534 petition signatures submitted on March 6 because a post office box address was used in the petition heading.
“As a marine, I respect the law and the public servants who enforce it. But I will not allow thousands of voters in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula to be disenfranchised based on what is otherwise an easily verifiable fact: That I am a legally qualified candidate with the documented support required to appear on the primary election ballot,” Morgan said.
“I want to make one thing clear: We will be on the ballot in November,” he said, adding that there is “sufficient grounds” to argue that his absence from the ballot “would disenfranchise thousands of voters.”
Fred Woodhams, spokesman for Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Morgan’s use of a P.O. box address on his nominating petition threatens his candidacy eligibility. He said he has no memory of past candidates becoming snagged in this specific situation.
“What we consistently tell candidates is they need to provide their residential address,” he said in the AP story. “This has been a long-standing rule. State law requires the state address to be put on a petition sheet.”
Bureau of Elections instructions published in 2015 for preparing, circulating and filing petitions for public office in regularly scheduled elections do not specifically indicate that a physical address must be used on the petition header.
“When we started the campaign, we didn’t have a physical campaign office,” Morgan told the AP. “We did have a post office box and we thought that was the right address to use.”
The document states: “The heading of each petition sheet must include the candidate’s name, address, political party affiliation (if required), the office sought, the district served by the office (if any), the date of the election, and any other required information.”
The only other reference is in the nominating petition template provided by the Michigan Secretary of State which indicates that a street address or rural route should be used.
“We are making the case, by not placing us on the ballot, the (board of canvassers) is subverting the will of 1,534 people who signed the petition,” Morgan said.
In the event the board of canvassers fails to certify the nominating petition signatures, Morgan said he is confident his name will still appear on the November general election ballot because his campaign has “a clear path to getting on the ballot through a successful write-in campaign” during the August primary.
Woodhams said his office is still calculating the threshold of votes Morgan would need to clear to clinch the Democratic nomination in August as a write-in candidate. The minimum would hinge on a formula that state law requires based on the district’s population size.
The board of canvassers is expected to decide on petition signature certification sometime in May, Morgan said.
Morgan, of Traverse City, is running against first-term U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet.
Bergman spokesman John Yob chastised Morgan, telling the AP that “the incompetence of the opposition will not slow down General Jack Bergman.”
Morgan doubled down on his commitment to be on the November ballot, despite the glitch.
“We will do all that it takes to be on the ballot in November and ensure voters in Michigan’s 1st Congressional District are not disenfranchised,” Morgan said.
Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.