Even in a season dominated by politics, it
is disheartening to witness state officials making policy based
purely on partisan affinity. But that is exactly what took place
when the Board of State Canvassers, a state elections panel, voted
to keep off the ballot presidential candidate Ralph Nader and a
proposed state constitutional amendment that would, among other
things, ban gay marriage in Michigan. Thankfully, the Michigan
Court of Appeals reversed the board.

Janna Hutz

The Board of State Canvassers denied Nader and the amendment
limiting the rights of gays a place on the ballot by a 2-2 vote
— two Republicans voting for placing Nader and the amendment
on the ballot and two Democrats voting against the placement. A
majority was needed. The court ruled Friday that the board
overstepped its authority by denying ballot access and declared
both Nader and the amendment will be on the ballot in November.

Even though the court rightfully gave Nader his place on the
November ballot, voters should be aware of the context in which he
obtained the necessary number of signatures to be on the ballot.
While his own website pledges that he is a candidate known for his
“ethics, integrity and independence,” The Detroit Free
Press recently reported that, “Michigan Republicans turned in
45,000 of the 50,500 petition signatures on behalf of Nader for a
ballot spot.” Members of the conservative advocacy group
Citizens for a Sound Economy also campaigned to get Nader on the
Michigan ballot.

“We saw it as an obvious opportunity to split the liberal
base in a swing state,” said CSE president Matt Kibbe in an
interview with ABC News. Kibbe went on to explain that his
organization — whose chairmen include prominent Republicans
such as former U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Dick
Armey — does not support Nader’s ideology. Another
illustrative example is that of Richard Egan, President
Bush’s first ambassador to Ireland, who has raised more than
$200,000 for the president’s re-election campaign, yet gave
Nader $6,000 as well.

Nader is aware of the tremendous amount of support he has
received from conservatives, but despite public announcements that
these conservatives have no intention of voting for him, Nader
refused to invalidate the signatures or return the money. He has
previously denounced Democrats for being beholden to special
interests, but has accepted support from people who openly disagree
with his platform on issues concerning tax cuts, Social Security
and civil rights. He certainly has a right to be on the ballot, but
his road onto it is mired in hypocrisy.

The court’s decision to allow the gay marriage amendment
on the ballot is also correct, but the proposed amendment is
troublesome to say the least. If the amendment passes, Michigan
citizens will have voted to deny equal benefits and protections to
a minority group. It is a political ploy that must be defeated. It
also demonstrates how public referendums, though they originated in
a progressive era, can be a vehicle for the majority to impose its
will on the minority.

Reformers were initially drawn to the use of direct democracy to
enact change because it lets the people, not officials, make
decisions. But in reality, it takes a tremendous amount of
resources to procure a spot for an initiative on the ballot, which
means the average citizen has far less ability to manipulate the
system than wealthy and well-connected individuals. While the
sentiment behind public referendums is noble, the practice of how
they are currently carried out is in need of reform.

Regardless what the electoral consequences turn out to be in
November, using a position on the board of canvassers to further a
personal political agenda, not the law, is unacceptable. The
Democrats on the board may later regret this partisan
precedent.

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