Michigan Affirmative Action Ban Proposal Appears Headed for Court
A state elections board on July 19 failed to either approve or reject petition signatures for a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban some affirmative action programs in Michigan.
Supporters say they will now go to court to try to get the measure on the November 2006 ballot.
During an emotionally charged meeting, the four-member Board of State Canvassers could not agree on how to handle signatures gathered by the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. MCRI leaders say they’ll ask courts to certify the signatures, a key step toward getting on the ballot. The MCRI proposal would prohibit the use of race and gender preferences in university admissions and government hiring.
“The thing we always knew would happen comes next … we go to court,” says state Rep. Leon Drolet, R-Clinton Township, who supports the measure. “We are going to get on the ballot.”
Most of the debate at the six-hour meeting centered on whether there should be an investigation into MCRI’s signature-gathering techniques. Opponents say an undetermined number of signatures were gathered through misrepresentation, with many Black people tricked into signing a petition they thought would protect affirmative action and civil rights.
“It’s clear people were fooled and lied to when they signed this petition,” says David Waymire, spokesman for One United Michigan, which opposes the ballot measure.
MCRI leaders deny those charges.
Hundreds of opponents from the Detroit area followed the meeting from extra rooms in the House Office Building, across from the state Capitol. Some also protested outside the building.
Emotion from the hearings spilled into breaks, with Drolet and Republican board member Lyn Bankes of Livonia at one point arguing about the process in a hallway outside the meeting room.
Bankes and board member Doyle O’Connor, a Detroit Democrat, say they will ask for investigations into the allegations of fraud and misrepresentation.
Bankes plans to send a letter to the Legislature asking that either lawmakers or the Board of State Canvassers handle the investigation, while O’Connor is asking for a probe by the secretary of state or attorney general’s office.
Canvassers disagreed on a motion to do an investigation themselves after being told by the attorney general’s office they don’t have the authority to investigate claims of fraud.
A motion to certify the signatures as sufficient for the ballot failed, with Democrats O’Connor and Paul Mitchell of St. Clair Shores voting against it. Republican Katherine DeGrow of Eaton Rapids voted for the motion, while Bankes abstained.
MCRI in January submitted more than 508,000 signatures in support of its proposal. It needs 317,757 valid signatures of registered voters to get the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot. The group is supported by California businessman Ward Connerly, one of the nation’s most visible opponents of racial and gender preferences.
State elections officials reviewed a sample of 500 signatures and found 450 of them were valid. Based on that, elections bureau staff recommended the petitions be certified.
— Associated Press
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