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Report: Eligibility questions could stall El-Sayed’s campaign for governor

Mercedes Mejia
Michigan Radio
Abdul El-Sayed

Dr. Abdul El-Sayedwants to become Michigan's next governor. The Democrat's bid has attracted attention from around the world.

The British newspaper The Guardian has dubbed him "the next Obama."  And recent polling shows El-Sayed is the strongest competitor to Gretchen Whitmer for the slot of Democratic front-runner.

But could that momentum be undone by El-Sayed's time spent as a professor at Columbia University in New York City?

Joel Kurthof Bridge Magazine, whose recentstory looks at questions about Abdul El-Sayed eligibility to run for governor, joined Stateside today.

Listen above for the full conversation, or catch highlights below.

Potential problem

"[The] problem is the Michigan state constitution says you have to be a couple of things to become governor or lieutenant governor. You have to be 30 years old and you have to be a registered elector in the state for the four years preceding the election.

"El-Sayed has been a registered voter in Michigan since 2003. The issue is that when he moved to New York to teach at Columbia, he registered to vote in 2012 in what’s considered a "registered elector," a registered voter in New York until 2015 at the very least. And he also re-registered to vote in Michigan in 2016. So the question then becomes: Was he qualified to vote in 2015? And a lot of election law experts said that could trip him up."

Possible damage to El-Sayed's campaign

"I spoke to one (election law expert) who said it’s not a problem at all because El-Sayed was on the rolls since 2003. Others said he was probably on the rolls in Michigan by accident, and that once he registered in New York, New York was supposed to notify Michigan, and Michigan was supposed to cancel his voter registration. Instead, once he changed his driver's license Michigan placed him on what’s called the 'cancellation countdown,' which means if you don’t vote for two federal election cycles, then you are going to be nullified. And he was going to be nullified until he cast a ballot and registered to vote in Detroit in 2016.

"I’ll say one thing, this is very much in the weeds of election law. It is a very minor threshold, but I will say that if we've learned nothing in Michigan in the last four years from Flint to problems with the unemployment office, it’s that details matter in government. And it is incumbent on candidates to get their stuff straight and there’s a question as to whether the candidate did in this case."

Where the legal challenge could come from

"It could come from anyone. It should be important to note nothing can really happen until he files paperwork including an affidavit of identity saying he meets these constitutional thresholds to be a candidate. The deadline for that is April 24 and most candidates wait until that deadline, so we’re sort of in a holding pattern now."

Statement from Communication Director Adam Joseph

"Abdul is 100% eligible to be governor in Michigan. He’s been continuously eligible to vote in Michigan since he was 18, maintained continuous resident in Michigan since he was a kid. Now there are those who are out there who are worried about the success of our campaign and our movement and what it means for their political power. Rather than doing the work of campaigning, they're pushing back room coronations and deals to promote candidates that fall in line with the usual button-fold politics that they’ve always pushed."

El-Sayed will be joining Stateside tomorrow to respond.

(Subscribe to the Stateside podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or with this RSS link)

Stateside is produced daily by a dedicated group of producers and production assistants. Listen daily, on-air, at 3 and 8 p.m., or subscribe to the daily podcast wherever you like to listen.
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