Following months of organizational and legal challenges, the
petition drive to end race-conscious programs in Michigan has again
reiterated its intention to halt this year’s campaign.

Yesterday, state Rep. Leon Drolet (R — Clinton Twp.), who
co-chairs the campaign, announced that the Michigan Civil Rights
Initiative intends to focus its efforts on getting its proposed
amendment to the state constitution on the ballot for 2006 instead
of this year.

“The intent now is to qualify for the ’06
ballot,” Drolet told the Associated Press.

His statements follow a recent rift in MCRI’s
organization, where a number of members left the formal campaign
over this very issue: whether the organization should temporarily
halt the current campaign, which strives to eliminate the use of
race, ethnicity and gender in public education and employment.

Drolet’s decision to announce the initiative’s new
focus resulted, in part, from the illness of Ward Connerly, who is
the main proponent and financial backer of MCRI.

This is not the first time MCRI officials have made this claim.
Former treasurer Leonard Schwartz stated last month that the
campaign would be a “waste of time and money” and
declared it “suspended.” Around the same time, Drolet
announced it was “dead in the water.”

In the midst of the organizational disunity, MCRI has faced
considerable legal challenges. Months ago, opposition groups
— primarily BAMN and Citizens for a United Michigan —
filed lawsuits against the campaign because they claimed its
petition form was misleading. MCRI, they argued, is attempting to
alter an existing provision in the state constitution guaranteeing
equal protection but not informing signers of the petition.

The court case still resides in the state Court of Appeals. Oral
arguments are scheduled for June 8, MCRI Director of Outreach
Chetly Zarko said. The decision could come down days afterward.

With a deadline of 317,757 signatures due by July 6 — and,
according to MCRI estimates, 425,000 signatures by June 15 —
the initiative faces considerable difficulty in achieving its
goal.

But, despite statements by at least four of senior MCRI
officials and the alleged illness of Connerly, Zarko said the
campaign will press forward, hoping to make the deadline for the
November ballot this year.

“It’s doable,” he said. “We’re
waiting for the court decision before we make a formal decision
either way.”

The campaign currently has a raw count of about 20,000 to 40,000
signatures collected by volunteer circulators. A paid circulator
effort began last week, slightly behind schedule because of the
numerous legal delays, and is expected to collect the necessary
signatures to complete the initiative.

The appellate court ruling expected in the beginning of June
could potentially invalidate MCRI’s current petition form,
which MCRI is still using. If this occurs, MCRI would have to
appeal to the state Supreme Court, who may or may not accept the
case. In any event, legal proceedings could extend far beyond July
6, when all petitioned signatures need to be in.

Zarko has continually said that the group is waiting on a
definitive ruling to provide some direction. In March, a circuit
court struck down the petition form. Judge Manderfield then wrote
that the purpose of MCRI’s campaign was “in essence to
‘undo’ what the U.S. Supreme Court did in upholding
certain protections guaranteed by the Equal Protection
Clause.”

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