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Mysterious Michigan "Tea Party" Kept Off Ballot - For Now

An April tea party protest in Washington. AP

Are Michigan Democrats trying to split the GOP vote by getting "sham" Tea Party candidates on the state ballot?

That's the assertion of many of the state's Republicans and Tea Party activists, who achieved a partial victory yesterday when Michigan's Board of State Canvassers split on whether a new political party called The Tea Party would get a spot on the November ballot. The split means the issue now goes to the courts.

The people behind The Tea Party (that's the political party, not the movement) got nearly 60,000 signatures for their cause - far more than they needed to get the party on the ballot, as NPR reports.

But Republicans challenged the effort to add the party and its 23 candidates to state ballots, alleging that the establishment of The Tea Party was actually a Democratic plot to gain an advantage. They pointed to the alleged party's unpublicized nominating convention and the way the party was formed to argue, as attorney John Pirich told the Detroit Free Press, that "this Tea Party is a sham."

There is some evidence for that claim. Over the weekend, as the Freep reports, a Democratic Party official in suburban Detroit resigned after word that he had recruited Tea Party (again, the political party, not the movement) candidates to run for office.

At the Canvassing Board meeting yesterday, tea party activists railed against the effort to create a party named after their movement, casting it as a cynical effort to confuse voters. Because there appeared to be enough legitimate signatures to get the party on the ballot, opponents focused on potential technical violations to argue against it. The two Democrats on the panel eventually voted that the party should be allowed, while the two Republicans said no.

It takes a majority to get the party on the ballot, which means that it stays off for now. But backers of the party are vowing to appeal in the coming days, and it could be left to the Michigan Supreme Court to decide whether there will be a Tea Party line on Michigan ballots in the fall.

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