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Duggan seeks sanctions against Robert Davis

Attorney Melvin Butch Hollowell, left, and Attorney John Pirich

Attorney Melvin Butch Hollowell, left, and Attorney John Pirich

By T. Kelly
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Mayoral candidate Mike Duggan wants sanctions levied against activist Robert Davis, for filing what his attorneys say was a “frivolous action.” A hearing is set for Nov. 1 before Third Circuit Court Judge Patricia Fresard on the merit of Davis’ most recent lawsuit.

Davis sought an injunction to have the absentee ballots reprinted. He claimed the ballots, issued by Clerk Janice Winfrey, are not in compliance with state law.

Davis argued the Detroit absentee ballots are missing a bold letter on the perforated strip that corresponds to the appropriate ballot box.

“The public is concerned with the purity of the election,” Davis said. “This is the only way to keep track of what ballots are cast.”

Robert Davis

Robert Davis

It was Davis’ second attempt to invalidate the absentee ballots. Through several legal efforts, Davis has consistently challenged the state’s Emergency Manager law, only to lose on appeal in higher court. He was successful, however, in obtaining through the Freedom of Information Act, emails between Duggan and Gov. Rick Snyder aide Richard Baird discussing the selection of Kevyn Orr as the Detroit emergency manager.

In his first court fight against the ballots, he claimed the Detroit Election Commission had not met to approve the ballots before they were sent out to absentee voters, the day after the recount ended and the Wayne County Board of Canvassers certified the election.

In that case, on Oct. 3, Fresard ruled the absentee ballots could be sent out. After being ordered to testify, Clerk Janice Winfrey said that as a member of the election commission she had the authority to send out the ballots because they had been approved earlier by the election commission.

Davis’ latest attempt to question the propriety of the ballots was based on the affidavit of a Detroit voter who petitioned for the reprinting, claiming she doubted her ballot would be counted.

Fresard recessed the Oct. 16 morning hearing until the afternoon so the voter could appear. Until the witness testified, Fresard said she would not hear testimony from representatives from Accuform, the company that prints the ballots, or the ballot printer from Oakland County who was to testify that numbers missing from Detroit’s ballot are required to avoid fraud.

When court reconvened in the afternoon, it was learned the voter was Davis’ sister,  Desmone Rachael White. She said she needed to vote absentee because she had plans to go to Lansing on election day. She testified she questioned how the ballot looked. It was not the same size, had smaller ovals, the paper was lighter and more flimsy than ballots. Her biggest problem was the clerk at the election commission who took her application for absentee ballot did not ask her for identification, she testified.

Fresard noted her concerns with the lack of legally mandated paper and perforations came only three days after her Oct. 3 ruling against Davis’ first effort. Under questioning, White said she would not vote the absentee ballot because she feared it would not be counted and she was going to the polls before she left town.

Fresard said, therefore, White would suffer no harm, but those voters who had already submitted their ballots would be harmed. The cost to the city would be harmful, and the confusion that would result would be harmful.

Representing Duggan was Atty. Melvin Butch Hollowell, general counsel for the Detroit Branch NAACP, and Atty. John Pirich. Pirich also represents Highland Park emergency manager Donald Weatherspoon in the case brought by the ACLU against the EM there. That lawsuit seeks to see students receive their basic right to read.

Davis is already facing indictment for charges of embezzling from Highland Park schools and he has a $46,000 court judgment against him in another Highland Park school case.

 

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