Advance Notice: Briefs

Voting rights group sues state board in Michigan Supreme Court following deadlock on ballot proposal

By: - September 1, 2022 2:30 pm

The Promote the Vote 2022 coalition announces during a Lansing press conference that it has filed nearly 670,000 signatures, July 11, 2022 | Laina G. Stebbins

After the Board of State Canvassers deadlocked Wednesday on whether to place a voting rights constitutional amendment on the November ballot — despite Promote the Vote 2022 (PTV) gathering over 200,000 more signatures than needed — the campaign has filed a lawsuit against the state board in the Michigan Supreme Court.

In a 197-page filing Thursday afternoon, PTV argues that the canvassing board has “failed to perform its clear legal duty.”

“Rather, the two dissenting Board members abdicated their oaths to follow the law, went beyond their statutory duties by conducting a judicial review of whether a provision of the Constitution was ‘abrogated,’ and put their personal partisan politics over the rule of law,” the lawsuit reads.

PTV is a coalition that includes Voters Not Politicians, the ACLU of Michigan and more. It submitted more than 664,000 signatures in July. If ultimately approved and voted for by Michiganders in November, the amendment would take effect 45 days after Election Day.

But the constitutional amendment is one of two that have now been thrown into question after being challenged by other groups. The Board of State Canvassers — a four-member panel with two Democrats and two Republicans — were split down the middle when it came to certifying both.

PTV complaint

Board Vice-Chair Mary Ellen Gurewitz and fellow Democrat Jeanette Bradshaw voted Wednesday to put the question on the ballot. The board’s two Republicans, Richard Houskamp and Tony Daunt, voted against.

A deadlock among the small panel means in practice that the petition is rejected.

“We are hopeful the Michigan Supreme Court will place this important proposal on the ballot, despite the Board of State Canvassers’ partisan deadlock,” said Khalilah Spencer, board president for PTV, after the group filed the lawsuit Thursday.

“The ‘challengers’ have made frivolous arguments to block this proposal. More than 664,000 Michigan voters signed our petition to place the fundamental right to vote in Michigan’s Constitution and their voices should not be silenced. It’s time to get partisan politics out of the way and let the people of Michigan decide.”

The opposing group is called Defend Your Vote and was formed specifically to oppose the PTV measure. It claims that the ballot proposal does not clearly spell out what changes it would make to the Michigan Constitution, among other complaints.

PTV 2022 would amend the state constitution to allow nine days of early voting, allow voters to register absentee for all future elections, require more ballot drop boxes and more.

The Secretary of State’s deadline to certify general election ballots for county clerks is 5 p.m. Sept. 9 — just over one week away.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.