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Michigan court clears way to certify Detroit mayoral primary

DETROIT (Reuters) - The Michigan Court of Appeals on Friday cleared the way for the state's election board to declare a winner of Detroit's disputed August mayoral primary next week, in a ruling that would pave the way to a victory for a former hospital executive who waged a write-in campaign.

Results of the August 6 mayoral primary have been held up for weeks over the counting of thousands of write-in votes for Mike Duggan, the former hospital executive. A city tally of the results of the primary gave the victory to Duggan by a wide margin over Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon.

The court ruling, however, will not change the landscape for the November 5 general election, because even if the disputed ballots had been thrown out, Duggan would have finished second. In Detroit's non-partisan system, the top two vote-getters in the primary compete in the general election.

The Wayne County Clerk's Office had recommended striking thousands of write-in votes because precinct clerks made errors in counting them, which would make Napoleon the winner. The Wayne County board refused to certify that result.

The state stepped into the ensuing battle, which was further complicated by a challenge raised by a city clerk candidate and supported by a county judge. In the end, the state turned to the appeals court to move the case along.

Friday's appeals court ruling allows the state board to certify the primary results at a meeting scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. After that, candidates may seek recounts.

According to court documents, preliminary figures from the state's canvas added to the city's original vote total for Duggan. The city's unofficial results had Duggan winning the primary with 46 percent of the vote to Napoleon's 30 percent.

The November 5 general election will determine a successor to Mayor Dave Bing, who said in May he would not seek re-election.

Detroit is under the control of state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr and filed for bankruptcy protection in July, but the primary nevertheless drew more than a dozen candidates.

(Reporting by Steve Neavling in Detroit and David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Leslie Adler)

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