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One Court of Justice Blog

June 19, 2013

COA concludes that Detroit's residency requirement for mayoral candidates passes consitutional test

In Barrow v. City of Detroit Election Comm'n, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that a prospective mayoral candidate was ineligible for candidacy when he filed his petition just under a year after registering to vote in Detroit. Section 2-101 of the Detroit City Charter requires that mayoral candidates be Detroit residents and be registered Detroit voters for one year 'at the time of filing for office.' The Michigan Court of Appeals declined to apply strict scrutiny to the residency requirement and held that the law withstood both intermediate and rational basis scrutiny because of the government's interest in ensuring that candidates are familiar with the community. The court also decided that the statute was not ambiguous and the one year must be counted from the time that the petition was filed and not the filing deadline that is applicable to all candidates.

The partial dissent would have applied strict scrutiny to the residency requirement as a restriction on the right to intrastate travel, which is a fundamental right according to federal courts. The dissent would have struck down the law because even if ensuring that candidates have knowledge of the community is a compelling government interest, the law is not narrowly tailored to that interest because some outsiders may have a more complete knowledge of the community than politically disengaged outsiders.

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