The state Court of Appeals denied a motion yesterday to
immediately reverse a circuit court decision that effectively
invalidated the petition to end race-conscious policies in
Michigan.

The court will hear oral arguments in about two weeks on the
appeal, filed by Attorney General Mike Cox, who represents the
state Board of Canvassers. An Ingham County circuit court judge
ruled that the board should not have approved the form in December,
because MCRI’s petition would significantly alter or nullify
the civil rights article of the state Constitution without
including the article text on the petition.

Officials said MCRI will wait until the appellate court rules
before determining the direction of the campaign. A ruling in favor
of Cox would validate their petition, and MCRI could continue to
collect signatures using its current form. But if the court rejects
the appeal, MCRI may have to redo its petition and restart its
campaign.

The MCRI petition — which the Board of Canvassers recently
struck down to comply with the Ingham County judge’s ruling
— seeks to amend the state constitution to ban
“preference based on race, ethnicity and gender.”
Yesterday’s appellate court decision to delay its ruling on
the now-illegitimate petition could hamper MCRI’s campaign,
which needs 317,757 signatures by July 6 to get on the November
ballot.

An appellate court ruling could take up to four or five weeks,
and MCRI’s decision to wait only hurts its campaign, BAMN
national co-chair Luke Massie said. BAMN is suing MCRI over its
petition form. MCRI’s urging of circulators to continue
collecting signatures suggests they are “pursuing a policy of
deception that has been exposed by the courts,” he said.

While Massie said the court’s decision indicates judges
want to hamper MCRI’s campaign, MCRI Director of Outreach
Chetly Zarko said the court wants to hear more in-depth oral
arguments on both sides, instead of ruling simply based on legal
briefs.

MCRI has not made a definitive decision on the direction of its
campaign and will not make one until the court rules, he said.
“You’re reading tea leaves if you try to draw a
conclusion on what the court will decide,” Zarko said.
“We want the guidance of the court.”

But the initiative has several contingency plans in place. One
of these options is to redo the petition. If necessary, the group
plans to hire paid circulators to collect signatures. MCRI now has
1,400 volunteers, several of whom have collected more than 1,000
signatures each.

The paid circulators would most likely start May 1, since MCRI
expects the appellate court to rule by the end of April. Zarko
estimates that 50 paid circulators collecting 200 signatures a day
could complete the group’s goal by July. But the campaign
would consider hiring more than this, because a large enough group
of paid circulators can allegedly collect upwards of 300,000
signatures in one month. “There are a lot of other options
for us,” Zarko said. “A large amount of that depends on
the Court of Appeals.”

Because MCRI would need significant funds to achieve its goal,
Massie said he is skeptical of this contingency plan. “I
think that they’re just blowing hot air. That’s just my
guess,” he said. If BAMN loses in court, the group would
continue its “Decline to Sign” campaign in opposition
to MCRI.

Zarko would not comment on MCRI’s financial situation.

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