The Macomb County Election Commission voted against allowing Shelby Township to add an advisory question regarding the funding of the on the ballot during the upcoming presidential primary elections.
The commission, made up of Chief Judge of Probate Court David Viviano, County Clerk Carmella Sabaugh and Chief Deputy Treasurer Jerry Moffit, voted 2-1 during a special session Friday morning to deny Shelby's request to add the advisory question to the ballot.
The election commission’s vote is in line with the State Election Department’s view on the subject. State Director of Elections Christopher Thomas wrote in a letter to Macomb County and Shelby Township threatening to pull all state funding from the township’s elections if the advisory question was printed on the ballot.
“The Bureau does not approve the ballots submitted on behalf of Shelby Township that contain the proposed advisory question, nor will the state provide any reimbursement for ballot printing or other costs associated with any ballots containing the advisory question, including ballots printed for the Republican and Democratic presidential primary,” the letter stated.
Shelby Township Attorney Rob Huth called the last minute letter a “bullying tactic."
“We just found out the State’s position at 3 p.m. yesterday,” said Huth. “There is no authority for that position and we weren’t able to convince the Election Commission to disregard that threat."
"The primary thing for me is the voters need to decide that issue," said Shelby Township Supervisor Rick Stathakis. "It would have been nice if the State stayed out of this but they didn't."
Last month, the , which states: “Do you support the Shelby Township Board of Trustees authorizing funds from the Capital Improvement fund and/or selling bonds for the design and construction of a $5 million (or less) District Court Building even if it means cutting services or raising taxes in order to keep the Court in Shelby Township?"
The State Election Department took issue with the proposal for two main reasons:
- Because the language was an advisory question, which is a non-binding statement, and doesn’t’ require Shelby Township authorities to take action based on the results of the vote.
- Supervisor Richard Stathakis’ plan to have a third-party non-profit organization to subsidize the remainder of the ballot printing is not permissible.
“Imagine the public outcry … Without this policy, any individual or group with a social, political or economic agenda could force their issue onto the ballot so long as the sponsor agreed to reimburse the local unit of government the cost incurred in hosting the election,” Thomas wrote.
Huth said in Shelby Township’s defense that this is a “case of first impressions,” and there are no statutes or laws that prohibit advisory questions.
In a letter to the Macomb County Elections Commission Huth said the Shelby Township Board of Trustees came up with an innovative way to get feedback on a very important issue, without costing the taxpayers money.
“Unfortunately, someone with a salary paid for by the taxpayers has decided to intercede and interrupt this process because he doesn’t approve of the question,” Huth wrote.
Therefore, the advisory question will not be placed on the Feb. 28 primary ballot or on the August elections.
Huth told Patch, “It’s back to the drawing board for Shelby Township.”