MANTON — Due to an “unfortunate mistake‘ in the process of certifying candidates for the November commission race in Manton, several candidate names were nearly left off the ballot.
The city of Manton recently filed a lawsuit against the Wexford County Clerk’s Office to resolve the issue.
In their lawsuit, the city contended that when commission candidates turned in their paperwork, which included signatures of support and proof of identification, they were told the county clerk’s office would take care of things from there.
As per Manton’s city charter, however, for a candidate’s name to appear on the ballot, it must be certified by both the county clerk and city clerk.
According to lawsuit documents, there are five candidates running for seats on the commission: Sue Fullerton, Lisa Gillett, Troy Jones, Rebecca Middleton and Marcie Wilson; and there are two candidates for mayor: Sam Cronkhite and Heather O’Connor. All but one of those candidates failed to submit their paperwork to the city clerk by the deadline in July, according to the lawsuit.
As the deadline for certifying the candidates approached, Manton City Clerk Jessica Schisser attempted to contact the county clerk’s office to collect the remaining paperwork.
Wexford County Clerk Alaina Nyman said in an email to Schisser that when she contacted them about the candidates’ missing paperwork, “confusion ensued because the rest of the staff knew we shouldn’t have (the paperwork). We didn’t even know that we did.‘
In the county’s response to Manton’s lawsuit, they said the mistake to hold on to the paperwork and not send it back to the city clerk was made by one employee.
“All such action by (the employee), although undertaken on good faith, was an error and did not comply with Michigan Election Law procedure,‘ the county replied.
Also in their response, the county said they did not oppose the relief sought by the city in getting the names put on the ballot but added this action must be achieved through court order.
The Wexford County Board of Election Commissioners also agreed to not oppose the city’s request to get the names on the ballot.
On Aug. 13, acting 28th Circuit Court Judge Keven Elsenheimer ordered that the names be placed on the ballot; 28th Circuit Court Judge William Fagerman previously recused himself from the case, citing the county’s relationship with the city.
If the city failed to secure the court order, the candidates could only have been “write-in‘ candidates.
Manton Mayor Garry Brown said this was unacceptable, as it would have forced Manton voters to remember the names of all the candidates when they went to the polls.
Brown said he was very upset about the possibility that city candidates’ names would be missing from the ballot, despite their best efforts to follow the rules and file all their paperwork correctly.
He said he thinks county employees need to undergo additional training on election laws to avoid similar mistakes in the future. He added that the city likely will be asking the county to cover their legal expenses, which will be around $2,000-$5,000.
“It was an unfortunate mistake,‘ said Wexford County Clerk Nyman to the Cadillac News. “We’re very happy we could get this taken care of for the candidates. The city clerk (Schisser) and I worked very hard together to get this taken care of.‘
Schisser said she’s just glad the candidates’ names will appear on the ballot and added she appreciated Nyman’s efforts in making things right.
Mayoral candidate Sam Cronkhite said he didn’t have any hard feelings against the county as a result of the confusion.
“It was an honest mistake,‘ Cronkhite said. “It didn’t really affect me a whole lot. And now we’re looking good.‘
Heather O’Connor, who also is running for the mayoral seat, said while there seemed to be a lack of training, the mistake didn’t cause any problems for her.
“If it had been further down the road, it could have caused some headaches,‘ O’Connor said.
Commission candidate Sue Fullerton said she appreciated the call from Nyman apologizing for the confusion.
“I think it was just a mistake,‘ Fullerton said. “All is well and good.‘
Commission candidate Lisa Gillett said she didn’t even know there was a problem, as she was out of town.
Commission candidate Marcie Wilson said she’s just glad the problem was taken care of before the election.
“Sometimes confusion happens,‘ Wilson said.
The Cadillac News reached out to candidates Troy Jones and Rebecca Middleton but did not hear back by press time.