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Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Election Disputes

November 2, 2020

Should the expected litigation around the 2020 election prove too tame, there's always the possibility of fake candidates in Michigan.

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

Did you know that in Michigan it’s possible for an imposter to run for president?

It’s not likely, but it is possible. I know this because of a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling in a dispute between candidates for Wayne County sheriff.

I hope someone is keeping track of all the election lawsuits this year because records must be being smashed. If anything can be argued, it’s going to be in court. Everybody is doing it.

In this particular case, a Democrat challenger to an incumbent Republican sheriff sued because the Republican, allegedly, didn’t properly identify himself. He may have been in office for years, but that didn’t mean anyone recognized him.

This is why I now know about the presidential exception in Michigan. The appellate panel for some reason decided to quote a Michigan election law at length in the ruling. I’m guessing they did this so the ruling wouldn’t be one sentence long and look like they hadn’t done any work.

The Michigan law requires candidates to provide an “affidavit of identity” to get on the ballot. The requirement, though, doesn’t apply to candidates for president and vice president.

So, I guess, a fake Trump or Biden could run in Michigan.

The Republican sheriff in this case did indeed file his affidavit of identity. The Democrat sued to get the Republican off the ballot because a notary signed the affidavit in the wrong box. Democrats can be in favor of strict construction when it works for them.

The court, not unreasonably, didn’t buy this. I do, however, have to take issue with one part of this ruling — the very last sentence: “No costs, a significant question of public interest being involved.”

We may need to litigate the definition of significance.

Controversial ruling. This is from a Louisiana federal judge’s recent ruling: “The painting of President Trump cannot reasonably be described as obscene or plainly offensive on its face....”

You know there’s going to be some argument about that.

In case you’re wondering, this issue came up in a dispute over whether a high school student had a right to paint the president on his parking space. The portrait featured Trump wearing a stars-and-striped bandana and sunglasses. The school board decided this was too political and had it painted over. Litigation, naturally, ensued.

Question: Is Trump in a bandana and shades a pro-Trump statement or an anti-Trump statement? Aren’t sunglasses a Biden thing?

I had no idea that parking space art was a serious issue, but, according to the ruling, “defendants refer to incidents at other schools across the country, including pro-Trump parking spots vandalized by ‘BLM,’ ‘FREE THE FAMILIES,’ and other phrases.”

So be careful where you park — you could be muzzling someone’s free speech.

The judge in this case reasonably ruled in favor of the kid’s art expression but then kind of spoiled it with this:

“N.T.’s painting, while it is certainly stylized and colorful, depicts the sitting President of the United States. This is not a case involving a symbol such as a Confederate flag, which has an established meaning as a ‘symbol of racism and intolerance, regardless of whatever other meanings may be associated with it.’”


The Trump meaning seems pretty established.

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