Whether the controversial "The Tea Party" political group makes it on the November ballot will be up to the courts after the Michigan Board of State Canvassers didn't approve the party's petition.
Petition forms didn't have "The" before "Tea Party" on it, which is the proper name that the mysterious startup political party used on other campaign documents. The vote to approve The Tea Party petition failed in a 2-2 vote with the two Republican board members voting not to approve it.
Michael Hodge, the attorney representing The Tea Party, said he expected to be in the Michigan Court of Appeals as early as Wednesday. At issues is whether the missing word on the petitions is "substantially" not in compliance with the petition gathering laws, given that there is another entity claiming the title of "Tea Party," without the definite article "The" in front of the name.
Although forgetting "The" in the proper name was considered a technicality by Hodge, there were bigger issues presented to the canvassers during the Monday meeting, including allegations of fraud involving the creation of The Tea Party.
Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson told the canvassers that one of The Tea Party candidates said in a letter to her office that he didn't sign any papers saying he would run for office.
Johnson brought a letter dated Aug. 20, signed by Aaron William Tyler, who is listed as The Tea Party candidate for a post on the Oakland County Board of Commissioners. The letter reads: "I did not sign this. ...I have no intentions of running for elected office... I believe a fraud was committed."
According to Johnson, Tyler said he was out of the state when he was alleged to have signed election documents. She said Tyler called her office after he was sent notices alerting him to late campaign reporting fines that he supposedly owed.
Johnson showed three signed forms on Tyler's election and voter identification paperwork at Monday's meeting. She said the signature on the letter signed by Tyler and sent to her office denying his role in The Tea Party matched his voter registration card. But those two signatures didn't match the signatures on The Tea Party election documents filed to support his supposed candidacy.
Jason Bauer is the notary who approved many of the election documents for The Tea Party, including Tyler's. At the same time, Bauer was the Oakland County Democratic Party's Political Director. However, following Johnson's revelation regarding Tyler on Friday, the Oakland County Democratic Party announced Sunday that Bauer had resigned from his position as political director.
Today, Johnson told the commissioners that she forwarded her information to the Oakland County Prosecutor's office for review and to see if criminal charges should be filed. She also said she was going to report it to the Attorney General's office.
Legal counsel told the Board of Canvassers that they had to rule only on whether the signatures needed were legitimate and if The Tea Party petition was done properly.
Attorney John Pirich, who represents the grassroots tea party movement, said his clients have filed political party formation paperwork under the name "Tea Party," which means the competing political party not including "The" in their proper name could create confusion.
The two votes that stopped approval were by the two Republican commission members.
Norm Shinkle, a deputy chair with the Michigan GOP and also the chairman of the Board of Canvassers, said failure to include "The" in the proper name on petitions violated election law.
Shinkle added the mistake could have been avoided if The Tea Party officials had come before his board for pre-approval.
"They decided to do it in stealth operation," Shinkle said.