Michigan Supreme Court orders abortion rights, voting access initiatives on ballot

The Michigan Board of Canvassers meets Friday, the deadline for the initiatives to appear on the ballot

click to enlarge Abortion supporters sign a petition in Eastern Market in Detroit to amend the state's constitution to affirm abortion rights. - Steve Neavling
Steve Neavling
Abortion supporters sign a petition in Eastern Market in Detroit to amend the state's constitution to affirm abortion rights.

High-profile initiatives to amend the state constitution to affirm abortion rights and extend voting access must appear on the November ballot, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

The state’s high court ordered the initiatives to appear on the ballot, saying that Republicans on the Michigan Board of Canvassers erred when they refused to certify the ballot initiatives.

Canvassers deadlocked on certifying the ballot initiatives Wednesday, with the two Republican members voting against them.

The Michigan Board of Canvassers meet Friday, the deadline for placing the initiatives on the ballot.

Republican Canvassers Tony Daunt and Richard Houskamp rejected the abortion rights initiative because of typographical errors, saying the amendment lacked sufficient spacing between some of the words.

Democratic canvassers and attorneys for the Reproductive Freedom for All initiative said Republicans had no basis for rejecting certification.

The Michigan Supreme Court agreed.

“In this case, the meaning of the words has not changed by the alleged insufficient spacing between them,” the court wrote.

The coalition behind the initiative submitted a record 753,759 signatures.

“We are energized and motivated now more than ever to restore the protections that were lost under Roe,” Darci McConnell, spokeswoman for the Reproductive Freedom for All campaign, said in a statement. “This affirms that more than 730,000 voters read, signed, and understood the petitions and that the frivolous claims from the opposition are simply designed to distract from our effort to keep the abortion rights we had under Roe for nearly 50 years.”

Opponents of the initiative, Citizens to Support MI Women and Children, assailed the decision.

“It falls to voters now to reject this mistake-ridden, extreme proposal on Election Day,” Christen Pollo, spokeswoman of the group, said. “It authorizes abortions up until the moment of birth, while sweeping away every law designed to impose common sense limits on abortions, such as parental consent, and health and safety regulations on abortion clinics. This would become part of our constitution permanently, and no matter how much it endangered the health and safety of our children, we’d be stuck with it.”

Michigan is one of 26 states with a law banning abortion. The state’s 1931 abortion ban was invalidated when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of abortion rights in Roe v. Wade in 1973. But now that the case has been overturned earlier this summer, the ban could go back into effect.

On Wednesday, the Michigan Court of Claims ruled that the state’s 1931 ban is “unconstitutional” and cannot be enforced.

Republicans are appealing the decision, and abortion rights could ultimately be decided by the Michigan Supreme Court.

Regardless of the higher court’s decision, the Reproductive Freedom for All initiative would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution.

Two-thirds of likely voters in Michigan said they support a ballot initiative that would enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution, according to an EPIC-MRA poll that was released in July. Another 58% of voters said they are pro-choice, compared to just 33% who identify as pro-life.

The Michigan Supreme Court also ordered the Promote the Vote initiative to appear on the ballot.

The initiative calls for nine days of early voting, secure drop boxes, ballot tracking, public funding for postage on absentee ballots, and additional time for military and overseas voters to return their absentee ballots. The initiative would also allow voters to request an absentee ballot for all future elections.

Republican canvassers said the voting rights petition failed to identify every constitutional provision the amendment would override, an argument that Democrats rejected as “pretty silly.”

Promote the Vote submitted nearly 670,000 signatures to get the initiative on the November ballot, surpassing the roughly 425,000 required. The Michigan Bureau of Elections recommended certification for both initiatives.

"Today’s rulings from the Michigan Supreme Court underscore that the role of the Board of State Canvassers under law is to affirm the will of the voters," Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson tweeted. "That means certifying ballot proposals if & when a sufficient number of eligible citizens' signatures support the petition just as the law compels them to certify election results based on the votes cast by the people of Michigan. I am grateful to the court for affirming this and hope the board now resumes its longstanding practice of working within its authority under Michigan law."

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About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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