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A Better Partnership
January 16, 2013

COA Opinion: Plaintiffs denied quo warranto and mandamus relief for alleged irregularities in special millage election

In Hanlin v. Saugatuck Township, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that the plaintiffs were not entitled to a quo warranto writ based on alleged irregularities in a Saugatuck Township special election that narrowly approved a millage. The court also held that the plaintiffs were not entitled to a writ of mandamus regarding the certification of the election. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the trial court's grant of summary disposition in favor of the defendants.

Plaintiffs sought to void the special election's results based on allegations that the Township clerk cut the security seal on a township ballot container after the election but before a recount, and then transferred ballots to unapproved bags and failed to match the seals with the recorded numbers in the poll book. The court interpreted MCL 168.861 to leave undisturbed the requirement under MCL 600.4545(1) that a plaintiff seeking quo warranto must demonstrate material fraud or error. The court determined the Board of Canvassers committed no error because the ballots from the precinct were not eligible for recount due to the clerk's actions, so the original count was properly certified. The court also held that there was no evidence the election's outcome would have been different had the Township clerk not acted as an election investigator, and that, even if voters were misled by the language of the millage, that would not justify quo warranto.

Finally, the court determined that the plaintiffs were not eligible for a writ of mandamus because their argument was premised on the Board's alleged misinterpretation of the State Department's Manual for Boards of County Canvassers. The court found that this Manual does not carry the force of law and cannot form the basis of a mandamus claim.

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