United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION & ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION
FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION (Dkt. 8)
A. GOLDSMITH United States District Judge.
ask that this Court order Defendant Governor Richard Snyder
to hold the election to fill out the balance of Congressman
John Conyers Jr.'s term on an earlier schedule than the
one the Governor established. The United States Constitution
requires a state's governor to call an election to fill
vacancies in that state's representation in the United
States House of Representatives, thereby ensuring that its
“[m]embers [are] chosen . . . by the People of the
several States.” U.S. Const. art. I, § 2, cl. 1.
But the Constitution accords considerable deference to a
governor in setting the election date. Having reviewed the
extensive record presented, this Court finds no evidence
supporting Plaintiffs' theory that Governor Snyder was
racially motivated or otherwise violated equal protection
guarantees when he established dates that coincide with the
regularly scheduled election dates in August and November of
those dates will remain in effect.
matter is before the Court on a motion for preliminary
injunction (Dkt. 8) brought by Plaintiffs Debra Rhodes,
Gloria Mounger, Thomas Williams, Laura Dennis, and Vivian
Wordlaw. Plaintiffs are registered voters in Michigan's
thirteenth Congressional district, a district that has been
without a representative in the U.S. House of Representatives
since the resignation of Congressman Conyers on December 5,
2017. Plaintiffs allege that Governor Snyder's decision
to delay a special election until November 6, 2018, violates
their equal protection, due process, and voting rights under
the Michigan and United States constitutions. They now seek
an order directing Governor Snyder to conduct a special
election “as soon as possible.” For the reasons
stated below, the Court denies Plaintiffs' motion for
December 5, 2017, Congressman Conyers resigned as
Representative of Michigan's thirteenth Congressional
district. Am. Compl. ¶ 20 (Dkt. 10). Three days later,
Governor Snyder called a special election to fill the vacant
House seat. Id. ¶ 22. Governor Snyder stated
that the primary election would be held on August 7, 2018,
while the general election would be held on November 6, 2018;
these dates correspond with the previously scheduled dates
for the primary and general elections for the 2018 state-wide
races and congressional seats. See Conyers Election
Call, Ex. 4 to Def. Resp., at 1-2 (Dkt. 11-5). The winner of
this special election will serve out the remainder of
Congressman Conyers's term, a period running from
November 7, 2018 until January 3, 2019.
allege that this eleven-month delay between Congressman
Conyers's resignation and the special general election,
in a majority-black district, violates the Fourteenth
Amendment's due process and equal protection clauses, and
the corresponding provisions of the Michigan Constitution.
They also allege that this delay violates their right to vote
under the Fifteenth Amendment. Plaintiffs contrast the
eleven-month delay with the four-month delay that occurred
when there was a vacancy in 2012 in Michigan's eleventh
congressional district, a majority-white district. They argue
that the loss of the constitutional right to vote tips the
balance of harms in their favor; they also contend that a
prompt special election is in the public interest.
response, Governor Snyder first argues that Plaintiffs'
claims are barred by the equitable doctrine of laches,
because Plaintiffs waited nearly two months after Congressman
Conyers' resignation to file a motion for preliminary
injunction. He also argues that Plaintiffs' claims fail
on the merits, because other congressional districts have
been treated in a similar manner when vacancies have arisen,
and because the decision to fill the vacancy using the
previously scheduled primary and general elections dates does
not unconstitutionally burden their right to vote. With
regard to the balance of harms, Governor Snyder argues that
Plaintiffs do not have a right to continuous, uninterrupted
representation, and that an order compelling an earlier
election that does not coincide with other regularly
scheduled elections would impose significant costs and burden
government employees. Finally, Governor Snyder argues that
the public interest does not weigh in favor of holding an
earlier special election, asserting that as long as the state
complies with the constitutional requirement that a special
election be held, the public does not have any particular
interest in when the election is held.
Court held a hearing on Plaintiffs' motion on March 15,
2018. It was at this hearing that Plaintiffs' counsel
first specified the relief that Plaintiffs seek. While the
motion merely states that Plaintiffs ask that the special
election be held “as soon as possible, ”
Plaintiffs' counsel stated at the hearing that Plaintiffs
are seeking a special, standalone primary to be held within
fifty days, with the special general election to be held at
the same time as the regularly scheduled primaries on August
hearing this proposal, the Court called Melissa Malerman, a
senior election law specialist with Michigan's Secretary
of State, to testify as to its feasibility. Malerman
testified that the requested fifty-day deadline to hold a
standalone special primary was not possible. In a subsequent
declaration, Malerman states that, under Plaintiffs'
proposal, it is not possible to meet the forty-five-day
deadline for issuing ballots overseas voters, as required by
the Uniformed and Overseas Civilian Absentee Voting Act
(“UOCAVA”), 52 U.S.C. § 20301, et
seq., without violating several state statutes. Malerman
Aff. II, Ex. 1 to Supp. Br., ¶ 12 (Dkt. 18-2). These
include allowing time for individuals to challenge nominating
petitions and to file administrative appeals, Mich. Comp.
Laws § 168.552(2), and allowing candidates two business
days to review ballot proofs for completeness and accuracy,
Mich. Comp. Laws § 168.565. Id.
also addressed the possibility of holding a standalone
primary in June, stating that compliance with certain
statutory deadlines would be “extremely complicated and
fraught with the potential for error, or impossible.”
Malerman Aff. II ¶ 14. Scheduling a primary on June 5,
2018 would shorten the statutory deadline for candidates to
file in order to ensure compliance with the UOCAVA.
Id. Mandating a June 12, 2018 primary would
eliminate the ability to file a challenge against the
sufficiency of a candidate's nominating petition.
Id. A June 19, 2018 primary would violate the
statutory deadline to certify candidates to the August
ballot. Id. Finally, holding a June 26, 2018 would
force Michigan to violate the UOCAVA. Id.
believes that, ideally, the state would need at least ninety
days to comply with statutory requirements, including
allowing candidates to collect signatures, allow individuals
to challenge those signatures, and certifying and printing
ballots. According to Malerman, even if the standalone
primary was held ninety days from now, there would still be a
possibility that certain statutory deadlines would be
violated. However, she acknowledged that the state was able
to schedule and conduct a standalone primary in September
2012, less than two months after a vacancy occurred in
Michigan's eleventh congressional district.
STANDARD OF DECISION
determine whether to grant a preliminary injunction, a
district court must consider: (i) the plaintiff's
likelihood of success on the merits; (ii) whether the
plaintiff may suffer irreparable harm absent the injunction;
(iii) whether granting the injunction will cause substantial
harm to others; and (iv) the impact of its decision on the
public interest. Hamad v. Woodcrest Condo.
Ass'n, 328 F.3d 224, 230 (6th Cir. 2003). These four
factors “are factors to be balanced, not prerequisites
that must be met.” Id.
their amended complaint, Plaintiffs allege violations of
their due process, equal protection, and voting rights.
However, in their motion for preliminary injunction,
Plaintiffs only address the merits of their equal protection
claim. As a result, the Court will only consider whether the
decision to delay the special election until November
violates Plaintiffs' equal protection ...