Michigan gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed is still in the race, with the challenge to his eligibility for the state's upcoming election officially dismissed by the state's Bureau of Elections on Wednesday.
El-Sayed's eligibility was called into question earlier this year after Bridge
magazine ran a story
suggesting he was ineligible because he had registered to vote in New York as recently as 2015. According to Michigan's constitution, a gubernatorial candidate must "have been a registered elector in this state for four years next preceding his election." The report cited six election lawyers, many of them speaking anonymously.
A challenge was filed by El-Sayed's Democratic rival Shri Thanedar earlier this month
, and El-Sayed even filed a request for Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to make an official judgment on his eligibility. However, the state rejected the challenge on Wednesday and called for the Court of Appeals to drop El-Sayed's own request, noting that despite the New York stint, El-Sayed has been continuously registered in Michigan since 2003.
In a letter to challengers, the state wrote that "Dr. El-Sayed’s voter registration record could not have been canceled unless the state received specific written confirmation that he had changed his residence for voting purposes, or until two consecutive federal general elections passed without him voting in Michigan."
Previously, state lawyers said
, "The controversy, such that there is one, is the creation of the media and the Michigan Democratic Party." El-Sayed's camp likened the claims of ineligibility to President Donald Trump's "birther" attacks on President Barack Obama.
“As we have always maintained, Abdul is 100 percent eligible to be Governor of Michigan," says communications director Adam Joseph in a statement. "He's been a registered voter in Michigan since he was 18 years old and has maintained continuous residence in Michigan since he was a child. As we expected, the Secretary of State has rejected this baseless political attack in an unprecedented confirmation of Abdul's eligibility to serve as governor in his state."
El-Sayed, Detroit's former health director, has drawn national attention for his campaign. If elected, he would be the first Muslim governor in U.S. history. However, he has trailed behind fellow Democrats Gretchen Whitmer and Thanedar in recent polls.
El-Sayed supports single-payer health care and free college tuition for people from middle- and low-income households, among a number of progressive policies. Recently, El-Sayed's campaign earned the endorsement of the national Bernie Sanders-inspired progressive group Our Revolution. El-Sayed also rolled out a plan for "MI-Fi," the country's first plan for statewide public broadband internet access.
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