A federal judge has ordered Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to appear in court on Friday for a hearing over her plans to require the use of citizenship check-off boxes on voter applications statewide for the Nov. 6 presidential election. Johnson’s office filed an emergency motion Monday asking U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman to allow her director of elections, Christopher Thomas, to be substituted in her place at the hearing in Detroit. As of Wednesday, the judge had not ruled on that request, court records showed. An accompanying brief lists two reasons for the request: that Johnson has 11th Amendment immunity and that she should not be compelled to testify where a lower-ranking official has the requisite authority and knowledge.
Attorneys for a voter-rights coalition that filed a lawsuit challenging the use of the check boxes asked that the motion be denied, arguing that Johnson is the state’s chief election officer and the person who is responsible for the decision to include the check box on applications to vote and absentee voter ballots. “Only she can speak to these issues,” their response said. Gisgie Gendreau, spokeswoman for Johnson, said in an e-mail that the office has not heard from the court on the motion to substitute Thomas for Johnson. But Johnson “will, of course, follow the court’s direction,” Gendreau said.