Ineligible candidate elected to office in Howell Township, replacement needed

Posted at 5:31 PM, Nov 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-10 18:00:10-05

A Howell Township candidate was elected on Tuesday, but will never have a chance to serve.

Despite appearing on the ballot, Elizabeth Dean, wasn’t eligible to be elected.

“I don’t think it’s very common,” said Howell Township Clerk Carolyn Eaton. “It hasn’t happened before here, so it’s new for us.”

Eaton said that she received a phone message from Dean earlier this year stating she no longer wanted to run. However, when Eaton tried to call back she didn’t respond.  In fact, Eaton sent emails and called a number of times without getting a response.

“Anyone can call and say, ‘So and so is moving,’ but you have to have proof.”

Eaton told 7 Action News she had no way of proving that the message wasn’t a hoax. She eventually found out that Dean had moved away, but it was too late. The ballots typically are printed long before the election itself leaving no option for the election staff to change the names put before voters.

Eaton ended up receiving the second-most votes in the election. Technically she won one of the four trustee positions on the Howell Township board, but since she doesn’t live in the area anymore she wouldn’t be allowed to serve.

“I really don’t know (what to think),” said Richard Planck, a Livingston County voter.  “I haven’t come across this before."

Planck, like many of the people found inside the local American Legion, has been talking about the election a lot over the past 48 hours.

Asked what he thinks the township should do, “that’s just an entirely different situation,” Planck said it’s hard to come up with a plan.

Ray Maher, sitting nearby, chimed in.

“There’s a lot of options,” said Maher, the one-time Township Supervisor.  “It’s not real common but people move, jobs change, things happen and life goes on.”

Maher said that it’s typically too expensive to do a special election.  He said that they could likely pick the next candidate in line.  An idea Eaton said will likely be considered, however, while there are options there has never been a specific determination in how the replacement should be picked.

“The board just needs to decide what is the best way to fill it,” said Eaton.

The next time the outgoing board meets is Monday night at 6:30 p.m.  Eaton said they could technically pick a new trustee at that time, or they could wait several more weeks.

“I can see (us) bringing in the fifth person who got lesser votes,” said Eaton.  “If you go back to the primary there was actually someone who had just a few less votes that didn’t end up on the ballot because there was only room for four Republicans.”

Eaton said her office contacted several state agencies to make sure they made the right decision in how they moved forward.  They’ve notified Howell Township leaders that they have plenty of options on how to fill the position, as long as they fill it by January.