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Michigan Supreme Court Leaves "Tea Party" Off Ballot

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law courts gavel Michigan Supreme Court Leaves "Tea Party" Off BallotA shadowy group calling itself “The Tea Party” won’t be allowed on the state’s November ballot after a Friday order from the Michigan Supreme Court.

The high court’s 5-2 vote lets stand a ruling earlier this week from the Michigan Court of Appeals that keeps “The Tea Party” off the ballot because it didn’t comply with some technical requirements in state law.

Republicans and tea party activists consider “The Tea Party” a Democrat-supported fake aimed at siphoning away votes from conservative candidates. The effort has connections to a former Oakland County Democratic Party official.

The appeals court ruled earlier this week “The Tea Party” could not be on the ballot because of an irregularity on its petitions circulated to make the ballot. The word “the” in “The Tea Party” title was not in 24-point bold face type on its petitions as required by law.

The Supreme Court denied a request to appeal, with the majority saying it was “not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this Court.”

A message was left seeking comment after Friday’s ruling with Michael Hodge, an attorney representing “The Tea Party.”

The court battle started last month after the Board of State Canvassers deadlocked 2-2 on a proposal that would have placed “The Tea Party” on the ballot. The tie vote, with Republicans opposing the measure to put the group on the ballot and Democrats supporting it, meant “The Tea Party” was not certified for the Nov. 2 ballot.

“The Tea Party” was seeking to run nearly two dozen candidates including nominees for attorney general, secretary of state, two of Michigan’s 15 congressional districts, six of 38 seats in the state Senate and eight of 110 seats in the state House. The group also listed potential candidates for the University of Michigan Board of Regents, the State Board of Education and the Oakland County Board of Commissioners.

Two of the state Senate candidates wouldn’t have qualified to make the ballot because they are too young.

Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson, now the Republican secretary of state nominee, requested an investigation after she found what she suspects is fraud in nominating some Tea Party candidates. Johnson has said at least one person listed as a “The Tea Party” candidate has said he was nominated without his knowledge and his signature may have been forged on official paperwork.

Jason Bauer, then an employee of the Oakland County Democratic Party, is listed as the notary on several candidate filings for “The Tea Party.” The county party requested and received his resignation last month after allegations about his role with the effort surfaced. Oakland County Democratic Party Chairman Mike McGuinness later stepped down for what he called in a statement “a new professional opportunity.” His statement didn’t mention “The Tea Party.”

Martha Blom, acting chairwoman of the Oakland County Democratic Party, issued a statement recently saying she and the board are “committed to restoring the reputation” of the county organization. Her statement did not mention the Tea Party allegations.

“The Tea Party” told state officials it had a convention to nominate candidates in late July. But regular tea party activists weren’t notified of the event and it wasn’t advertised. An attorney for “The Tea Party” has said the convention was attended by 10 to 15 people.

Opponents say “The Tea Party” broke state laws related to nominating conventions.

Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly and Justice Diane Hathaway, both nominated by Democrats, would have granted “The Tea Party” request to appeal and further contest the case.

The majority was formed by three Republican-nominated justices and two Democratic-nominated justices, including Alton Thomas Davis, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm last week.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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