In Michigan, federal appeals court partially overturns lower court order modifying candidate filing procedures

On May 5, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that a district court judge who ordered modifications to Michigan’s candidate filing procedures had erred in doing so. Although the appeals court agreed that the original requirements were unconstitutional, it found that the lower court had exceeded its authority in mandating new requirements to the state.

On April 20, Judge Terrence Berg, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, issued an order reducing the petition signature requirements for select primary candidates to 50 percent of their statutory requirements. Berg also extended the filing deadline from April 21 to May 8 and directed election officials to develop procedures allowing for the collection and submission of electronic petition signatures. Berg’s order had applied only to candidates for offices without a filing-fee option: U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress, and judicial offices. The order did not apply to state legislative candidates, who have the option to obtain ballot access by paying a filing fee.

The appeals court directed the state “to select its own adjustments so as to reduce the burden on ballot access, narrow the restrictions to align with its interest, and thereby render the application of the ballot-access provisions constitutional under the circumstances.” The state has yet to indicate what modifications it will implement in response to the appeals court ruling.

To date, at least 12 states have made modifications to candidate filing procedures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. For more information, see this article.