LANSING (AP) - Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer on Thursday accused Republicans of trying to create confusion over his party’s presidential nominating process by putting President Barack Obama’s name on the Feb. 28 primary ballot even though he asked that it be left off.
Republicans are using the primary to choose their presidential favorite. But Michigan Democrats plan to nominate their candidate at a May 5 caucus, so votes for Obama in the primary won’t count.
Under current national and state Democratic rules, someone who votes for Obama in the primary is barred from voting in the caucus, where it really counts. Brewer plans to ask a state Democratic Party governing board to change the rule at its Feb. 4 meeting so Democrats aren’t inadvertently disenfranchised if they vote in the primary.
He had blistering words for Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, whom he said put Obama on the ballot even though the party chairman sent her a letter requesting that Obama’s name be left off.
“All she’s done is create confusion,” Brewer said. “This is clearly partisan mischief.”
Johnson spokesman Fred Woodhams said Johnson was required by state law to put Obama’s name on the ballot, and that only the Obama campaign could file an affidavit asking to have the president’s name removed, not Brewer.
But the Democratic chairman said the law as it’s written made it impossible for the president’s campaign to comply.
The law, passed last fall by the GOP-controlled Legislature, says that a presidential candidate “may file an affidavit with the secretary of state specifically stating that `(candidate’s name) is not a presidential candidate,’ and the secretary of state shall not have that presidential candidate’s name printed on a presidential primary ballot.”
“That would have no bearing on a candidate’s ability to be on the November election ballot,” Woodhams said.
But Brewer said it didn’t make sense for the Obama campaign to file a legal document stating Obama isn’t a presidential candidate when he’s clearly running.
“He can’t go around and file statements under oath that he is not a presidential candidate,” the party chairman said, adding it would create problems for the Obama campaign around the country during the busy primary and caucus season.
Brewer also is suspicious that the document could be used to keep the president off the November ballot in a state that could prove crucial to his re-election chances.
“We don’t trust their interpretation of the law that this will not affect his ballot status in November,” Brewer said.
Michigan Republican Party spokesman Matt Frendewey said Democrats should be using the primary to nominate Obama, since a caucus will involve far fewer voting sites than a primary would.
“The February 28 presidential primary encourages and allows the most citizens to participate in the electorate process in choosing the next leader of our country. It’s disappointing, though not surprising, that Mark Brewer would prefer a process that discourages and limits participation,” Frendewey said.
Republicans didn’t hold a primary election in 2004 when GOP President George W. Bush was running for a second term.
Michigan voters will have to declare a party preference to get a Republican or Democratic presidential primary ballot. GOP officials hope the requirement will discourage Democrats from crossing over to vote in the Republican primary. John McCain’s upset of Bush in Michigan’s 2000 GOP presidential primary was aided by Democratic crossover votes, and Michigan Republicans have been leery of open primaries ever since.
Although Obama will be the only choice on the Democratic ballot, 11 Republicans will be on the GOP one, including Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, who have suspended their campaigns. Others on the ballot are Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Gary Johnson, Fred Karger and Buddy Roemer.
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