Ballot proposals for voting, reproductive rights in Michigan headed to Supreme Court

The battle over voting rights and reproductive rights in Michigan is heading to the Michigan Supreme Court. We're talking about two separate ballot proposals after the State Board of Canvassers deadlocked on the vote to put the issues on the ballot, and one of them was filed in the past 15 minutes.

LANSING, Mich. – The ballot proposals for voting and reproductive rights in Michigan are headed to the Supreme Court.

The State Board of Canvassers was deadlocked on the vote to put the issues on the ballot. One of them was just filed Thursday afternoon.

You can watch Rod Meloni’s update in the video posted above.

Here’s a statement from Christen Pollo, of Support Michigan Women and Children

Their form is fatally flawed as a result, and the Court really has no choice but to keep this gibberish off the ballot and out of our constitution. In our initial review of their court filings, the proponents of this proposal put spaces between each and every word, so that Supreme Court Justices could fully understand what they’re reading. It’s a pity they didn’t do that with their constitutional amendment, depriving voters of a chance to discern how extreme their proposal really is.”

Here’s more information:

Michigan high court asked to OK ballot question on abortion

An abortion rights group on Thursday asked the Michigan Supreme Court to approve a November ballot question on whether a right to abortion should be enshrined in the state constitution.

Reproductive Freedom for All filed its request with the high court after the state canvassing board rejected the ballot question on Wednesday. That body deadlocked 2-2 on partisan grounds, with a pair of Republican commissioners citing what they called spacing errors in the petitions calling for the ballot question.

Abortion rights supporters say it’s important for state residents to be able to weigh in on the abortion question, especially because of a 1931 law that would ban all abortions except to save the life of the mother that abortion opponents had hoped would be triggered by the U.S. Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade in June. The law has been blocked by months of court battles.

In the filing, the group asked the court to order the Board of State Canvassers to certify the question for the November ballot, and to do so by Wednesday. That would give board members time to certify the initiative before the board’s meeting on Sept. 9, which also is the deadline set by state law for the board to certify the ballot to the Secretary of State.

RFFA argued the petitions the group submitted met all prerequisites to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot, both in number of signatures and the petition format, and that the Board of State Canvassers overstepped its authority, violating “its clear legal duty,” when it rejected the initiative.

RFFA submitted more than 750,000 signatures, attorneys for the group wrote, making it the largest number submitted for a ballot initiative in state history. State law required a minimum of about 425,000 valid signatures.

No party has disputed that the group turned in enough signatures, RFFA noted. Rather, opponents “resorted to hyperbole” regarding the spacing of language on the petition, calling the small spaces between some words “gibberish” and “incomprehensible argle-bargle,” the group said in its filing. They argue that Michigan election law doesn’t provide requirements for spacing and said the opponents “are unable to point to a single individual that did not understand” the petition.

Opponents of the ballot initiative said the board did the right thing in rejecting what they called a “mistake-riddled, anything goes” proposal. They said the initiative would insert “gibberish” into the state constitution.

“The Michigan Supreme Court should support this move to protect our constitution from their vandalism as well,” Christen Pollo, of Citizens to Support Michigan Women and Children, said after Wednesday’s vote.

RFFA said the volume of signatories demonstrated “widespread grassroots support.”

“This Court should safeguard the right of the People to exercise their political power and protect it from strained interpretations of law that stand to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters,” attorneys argued.


Burnett reported from Chicago.


Joey Cappelletti is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.