Michigan Court Orders Anti-Affirmative Action Proposal on Ballot

LANSING, Mich.

      The Michigan Court of Appeals this week ordered the secretary of state to place a proposal that would ban some affirmative action programs on the November 2006 ballot.

      The order is a victory for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), which backs the proposal to ban race and gender preferences in university admissions and government hiring. The group collected about 500,000 signatures of Michigan voters to send its issue to the ballot.

      Opponents of the measure, claiming some voters were tricked into signing the MCRI petitions, plan an appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.

      The appeals court issued this week’s order because it said the Board of State Canvassers failed to follow a previous court mandate. The four-member elections panel last week deadlocked on a motion to comply with the earlier court order.

      “We’ve been waiting 11 months for the Board of State Canvassers to do its job,” said MCRI executive director Jennifer Gratz, noting her group submitted signatures to state election officials in January 2005. “We are excited about the court order, however I do think it’s sad the court had to step in.”

      In a strongly worded order, the appeals court said it may address possible contempt charges against the two canvassers who failed to comply with its earlier order.

      Democrat Paul Mitchell voted against the motion to place the issue on the ballot last week and Democrat Doyle O’Connor did not vote on the motion, according to the official record of the meeting.

      In a memo sent this week to the state attorney general’s office, O’Connor and Mitchell said the Dec. 14 meeting was improperly adjourned and ended in confusion during a loud protest by the measure’s opponents. They said they would support a court order directly placing the initiative on the ballot.

      Opponents say the ballot proposal should not go to voters because MCRI misrepresented the intent of its plan to some people who signed its petitions. MCRI denies the fraud charges.

      The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary said last week it would ask the Michigan Supreme Court to address the fraud complaints.

Another opposition group, One United Michigan, also is concerned about the fraud complaints.

      “It appears fraud is allowed in collecting constitutional amendment signatures in Michigan, although the Supreme Court will have to make the final decision on that issue,” One United Michigan spokesman David Waymire said.

      The Michigan Civil Rights Commission has scheduled a Jan. 11 hearing to discuss the fraud complaints, board chairman Mark Bernstein said.

— Associated Press



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