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Supreme Court: Inman recall petition OK despite missing word

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court ordered Monday that an attempt to recall a state lawmaker from office continue, reversing a lower court that said election officials correctly disqualified the petition over a missing word.

The ruling means Rep. Larry Inman, a Republican from Williamsburg facing charges in an alleged scheme to trade votes on legislation for campaign donations, could face a recall election in May — but only if the Board of State Canvassers determines enough valid signatures were submitted. An initial review showed that the Recall Inman Committee turned in too many invalid signatures.

“The recall petition is proper because the reasons give for recall in the circulated petitions were not different that the reasons that were approved by the Board of Canvassers,” the high court wrote.

The 7-0 order notes that Inman, a third-term House member who cannot run again due to term limits, has a separate recall-related appeal still pending in the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Nearly 14,000 voter signatures were filed to force a recall election for Inman, whom a jury this month acquitted of lying to the FBI. Jurors deadlocked on attempted bribery and extortion charges stemming from an alleged scheme to trade his vote on wage legislation for campaign donations from a union, and he may be tried again in federal court.

In November, state elections director Sally Williams told the recall group that its signatures were insufficient because the heading of every sheet, when listing the criminal charges Inman faces, said attempted extortion “under color of official” instead of “under color of official right.” The appeals court rejected the group’s appeal in a 2-1 decision.

The recall election still may not happen.

Days before the appeals court ruling, Williams informed the committee that an initial review uncovered nearly 1,800 invalid signatures — leaving it 94 short of the roughly 12,200 needed. The provisional canvass did not include an analysis of any signature challenges that might be filed on behalf of Inman nor any potential rehabilitation of invalid signatures that may be brought by the group.

Michael Naughton, a lawyer for the recall committee, was pleased with the Supreme Court decision. He said it means the signatures now will be formally reviewed.

“The chips will fall where they may. We’re hopeful that we do have enough signatures,” Naughton said.

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