Opponents of the Michigan Civil Rights
Initiative have filed a lawsuit against the State Board of
Canvassers that approved the form of the petition used by Ward
Connerly to ban affirmative action practices in Michigan. The
petitioners hope that the Ingham Circuit Court hearing the case
will find the text of the petition in violation of Michigan code
MCL 168.482 and direct the Board of Canvassers to reverse its
approval of the petition.

Mira Levitan

Under Michigan law, the petition is required to clearly state
that it seeks to amend the constitution. Also, the petition needs
to make its goal apparent to citizens. The petition seeks to ban
affirmative action in Michigan, yet this is not made evident by the
language in the petition. People without knowledge of the MCRI
could read the petition without knowing that its purpose is to ban
affirmative action. The MCRI is purposely hiding this fact from
potential signers so that they can gain signatures more
successfully. This manipulative language is an attempt by
supporters that will confuse some voters who hear “civil
rights” in the MCRI’s title into signing the petition
and putting this issue on the ballot.

The petition needs to state that it seeks to ban affirmative
action policies across the state. Further it needs to inform
potential signers that the petition intends to amend the existing
civil rights article within the constitution. These facts should be
made evident on the petition.

A signature on this ballot represents a step backward in the
strides that the University has taken toward ensuring a diverse
environment on campus.

It also fails to address how this amendment will limit the
University’s autonomy. As an institution of academic
excellence, the University must be able to make decisions in the
best interests of students without state intervention. Indeed, the
state constitution makes this distinction, establishing that the
regents should have “general supervision” over the
University. Michigan legislators should not be able to place
restrictions upon the University’s admissions policies.

Winning this lawsuit would stall the progress of the MCRI and
hopefully prevent Connerly from gaining enough signatures in time
for the elections, most likely in November. Connerly also attempted
to disband affirmative action in Florida, but ended his initiative
upon realizing that he would not be able to collect enough
signatures.

Many ballot petitions purposely use tactics that are misleading
in order to increase the number of signatures they receive. The
state can and should take a strong stance against such confusing
petitions. When reviewing this case, the Ingham Circuit Court needs
to address the practices employed by the MCRI. The courts should
overrule the State Board of Canvassers approval of the ballot
language.

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