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Michigan Primary
Up in Air

With voting scheduled to begin in less than two months, the presidential nominating calendar grew even murkier today after a Michigan judge issued a ruling that appeared to confound the state's plans for a Jan. 15 primary.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Ingham County Circuit Court Judge William Collete struck down as unconstitutional a provision in the law creating the Jan. 15 primary that would give the Democratic and Republican parties exclusive access to lists of voters who participated in the primary. Collete ruled that this provision amounted to giving public property to private interests and should have required a two-thirds majority when the Legislature enacted the law last summer. And because the law has a "non-severability" clause, the entire law creating the Jan. 15 must be declared void if any part of it is struck down.

Supporters of the Jan. 15 primary date, including Gov. Jennifer Granholm, said they were reviewing the ruling and would do what they could to retain the Jan. 15 date. But one of the plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit, Ingham County Commissioner Mark Grebner, told the Free Press he doubted the Legislature could enact a new law in time.

Michigan's loss of the Jan. 15 date threatens to shake up the nominating calendar once again, even as campaign strategists are begging for clarity in the schedule.

Both national parties have already moved to withhold delegates from Michigan for its decision to break party rules with an early date, and Democratic candidates have vowed to boycott the state. But the Michigan date may well have an effect on when New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner decides to schedule his state's primary.

Gardner has been sending signals that he is leaning toward a Jan. 8 primary, but that he is waiting to make sure that Michigan does not set a date any earlier than the 15th, since New Hampshire law requires a week between its primary and any other. If Michigan is now forced to move later than Jan. 15, Gardner could conceivably consider setting New Hampshire's primary later than the 8th -- thereby allowing more breathing room following the Iowa caucus on Jan. 3, with more time for New Hampshire voters to assess the caucus results, and more time for the eyes of the world to be trained on Keene, Manchester and Portsmouth.

--Alec MacGillis

By Washington Post editors  |  November 7, 2007; 6:28 PM ET
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