Source: Sherman Publications

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Write-ins will determine who replaces Alberty

by CJ Carnacchio

September 05, 2012

It appears that it will be a write-in candidate who ultimately replaces the late Dan Alberty as treasurer of Addison Township.

Oakland County Elections Director Joe Rozell informed township Clerk Pauline Bennett of this on Sept. 3. Write-in candidates have until 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26 to file their "declaration of intent" forms with the Addison Township clerk's office.

Write-ins cannot run as Republicans, Democrats or members of any other party. "Write-in candidates seeking election to a partisan office at a general election are required to run without party affiliation," according to the state Bureau of Elections.

Alberty, who died Aug. 28, was the Republican nominee for the office, having won the Aug. 7 primary election by beating fellow GOP candidate Lori Fisher 535 to 314.

This victory entitled him to appear on the November ballot. Since there was no Democratic candidate for the office, barring any nonparty affiliated write-in candidates, Alberty would have won another four years as treasurer.

In light of Alberty's death, originally, it was believed that the Oakland County Republican Party's (OCRP) executive committee would decide who would represent the party on the November ballot. The OCRP had even scheduled a Sept. 12 meeting to vote on a new nominee.

The basis for this was rooted in Michigan Election Law, which states "If a candidate of a political party for a township office, after having qualified as a candidate, dies after the last day for qualifying, leaving the political party without a candidate for a township office, a candidate to fill the vacancy may be selected . . . (by) the county executive committee of that political party."

However, the state Bureau of Elections insisted that another section of state election law was actually applicable in this case.

According to the law cited by the state, "If a candidate of a political party, after having been nominated for a township office, dies, moves from the township or becomes disqualified for any reason, the township board of election commissioners shall provide a blank space or spaces on the official ballots that affords every elector of the political party an opportunity to vote for a candidate to fill the vacancy by writing in the name of his or her selection."

Apparently, the political party gets to choose a replacement if the candidate dies between the time he or she is qualified to run by the local clerk and the August primary. However, if the candidate dies before the November election after having won the nomination in the August primary, the section allowing for write-in candidates applies.

After conferring with the state and doing some further research, Rozell informed Bennett via e-mail that the write-in portion of the law applied because Alberty "died between nomination (in August) and the November General (election)."

"In accordance with this statute, our office will provide for a write-in space on the ballot to permit a candidate to be elected by write-in," Rozell wrote. "It merits noting that write-in candidates for partisan office in the November General election must file with 'No Party Affiliation' or 'NPA.' They may also omit the party on the write-in declaration."

Because the November ballots haven't been printed yet, Alberty's name will not appear on them.

Dennis Pittman, executive director of the OCRP, indicated that in light of decision, the Sept. 12 executive committee meeting has been cancelled. He noted the two sections of the law are "very confusing" as far as which of them applies in this situation.

"I've spent some time reading both of them over and over and over they're not that long, but it's not real clear what the differences are," he said. "(Rozell) deals with that stuff on a daily basis; I don't. So, I'm going to always defer to his judgment."

Pittman said the OCRP has no plans to challenge this decision, even though it deprives the Republicans of the chance to choose one of their own for the ballot. "There's no reason for us to contest that," he said.

Fisher told this reporter she plans to run as a write-in candidate in November. "My commitment to the township has not changed in the three weeks since the primary," she said.

"I think I'm a great choice for it," Fisher continued. "I'm active in the community. I'm in touch with the township's needs."

Fisher is well-known for her involvement in the Leonard Elementary PTO and the Friends of the Addison Twp. Public Library.

Fisher believes she can offer "strong leadership" and bring a "fresh perspective" to the treasurer's office and township board. "The fact that I lost the primary didn't change my desire to serve the township," she said.

The contest between Fisher and Alberty had a refreshingly civil tone as neither candidate attacked the other or engaged in dirty pool. "It was very important to me to run a clean campaign and allow the people to make their decision," she said.

On a side note, Fisher wished to offer her condolences to Alberty's loved ones. "My sympathies do go out to the family," she said. "It's a horrible thing to have to deal with."

Whether or not anyone is appointed to fill the treasurer's position until November will be up to the township board to decide or not.

Due to the available time frame, the board could decide to leave the office vacant until the voters go to the polls.

Under normal circumstances, whenever there's a vacancy on a township board, there's a 45-day window to fill it. If the no one is appointed, the county has five days to call a special election. If one is slated, it must be held in 70 days.

However, given the treasurer's current term of office expires Nov. 20 and the closeness of the Nov. 6 general election, if the township decided to not appoint anyone, the county indicated it would not call a special election, according to Bennett.

This was confirmed to her by Rozell.

Pearson indicated he has no plans to call a special meeting to discuss whether or not to appoint someone.

He believes the issue will "probably" be raised at the Sept. 17 regular meeting. "I can't say for sure, but it's not in my plans," he said.

Speaking as one of seven board members, Pearson is opposed to the idea of appointing someone now because he doesn't wish there to be any perception of favoritism or that the board's trying to push a particular candidate.

Pearson believes Deputy Treasurer April Alberty, who's Dan's daughter, can take care of the necessary day-to-day office functions until November. "She has all the authority to handle everything," he said. "I think I'm going to let her continue handling everything."