Women who refused to reveal how they voted in contested 1977 mayoral race weren't jailed
In a recent Newsmaker Q&A, a weekly feature by radio host Lucy Ann Lance that is broadcasts on AM 1290 and also appears on AnnArbor.com, former Ann Arbor Mayor Louis Belcher talked about the 1977 mayoral election, which he challenged after losing to Al Wheeler by one vote.
In that interview, Belcher made several statements that were questioned by a reader, and based on a review of the case, we feel an obligation to correct some information that appeared in the published version of the interview.
Belcher had challenged the election in court after it was determined that 20 people who voted were not residents of the city. In his interview with Lance, Belcher said that the visiting judge appointed to the case had subpoenaed all 20 voters and asked them who they voted for. Court records show that the subpoenas were issued by Belcher's attorney, not by the judge, and five of the voters were asked how they voted.
Belcher went on to claim in the interview that when one of the voters refused to tell the judge how she voted, the judge held in her in contempt, and she was hand-cuffed and taken to jail. He also claimed that photos of her being taken away in handcuffs appeared in the national media.
Sue VanHattum, the woman who refused to say how she voted, confirmed in an email to AnnArbor.com that she was briefly hand-cuffed in a room in the courthouse, but the handcuffs were taken off and she not taken to jail. Instead, she and another woman who refused to say how she voted were sent home later that day. The state Court of Appeals issued a stay of the proceedings and the state Supreme Court later ruled that the voters did not have to testify further. VanHattum said she has kept a record of the media coverage, and there were no photographs of her in handcuffs published in local or national media.