Attorney General Mike Cox will appeal Thursday’s circuit
court decision, that effectively invalidated the petition forms
used by a group trying to end race-conscious policies in
But BAMN, which won the case says Cox, an outspoken opponent of
such policies, is acting on his own bias and not the wishes of his
Judge Paula Manderfield of Ingham County ruled Thursday the
State Board of Canvassers, Cox’s client, must rescind their
approval of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative’s petition
She wrote that MCRI’s amendment is trying to “alter
or abrogate” an existing article of the state constitution
guaranteeing equal protection under the law. This article is
illegally missing from the wording of MCRI’s form, she
MCRI is spearheading a ballot initiative to amend the
constitution to ban “preferences based on race, ethnicity and
If the group receives 317,757 signatures by July 6, the question
on racial preferences will appear on the November ballot.
The case will now go to the state Court of Appeals. George
Washington, BAMN’s lawyer, said a ruling is likely within the
next few weeks. If BAMN, Washington’s client, loses at the
state court of appeals, the state court of appeals, they will take
the case to the state Supreme Court.
But, in an effort to stop the case from reaching the appeals
court, Washington will file a motion to dismiss the trial because
the attorney general has not formally consulted with his clients,
the board members, on his decision to appeal. Opponents say
Cox’s based his decision on his desire to act on his own
beliefs. Cox is against racial preferences.
“Cox is acting on his personal, political agenda,”
BAMN national organizer Luke Massie said.
But Matt Davis, spokesman for the attorney general, said Cox did
not decide to appeal because of MCRI’s proposal to end racial
preferences. Since Thursday’s ruling invalidated the petition
form based on a formatting issue and not on principle, Cox is
defending the board on technical grounds, Davis said.
Members of the board also supported Cox’s decision to
appeal, even though they were not formally approached.
“The appeal flows naturally from our underlying
decision,” Republican canvasser Eric Pelton said. To let a
circuit court decision stand, he said, would be unprecedented.
Republican canvasser Kathy DeGrow said she had no opinion on the
decision to appeal but stands by her vote to approve the MCRI
petition, as does Pelton.
The board is a four person, bipartisan body that approves the
format of petitions based on Michigan law. Three of the board
members approved the MCRI petition in December, while one
As it stands, Manderfield’s ruling could hamper
MCRI’s campaign. If the appeal fails, the ruling would
require MCRI to redo its petition form and start its campaign over,
losing two months of petitioning. For the initiative to reach the
ballot, MCRI would have to again seek the board’s
MCRI campaign manager Tim O’Brien said before the campaign
began, MCRI lawyers anticipated such efforts to hamper the
But because MCRI claims the amendment does not alter the
constitution, it intentionally omitted the existing article from
O’Brien said the initiative voluntarily sought the
board’s approval and noted that it was not required.
Manderfield’s decision, he said, amounts to little more than
a public relations disaster for MCRI.
“It really had no legal impact on us,” O’Brien
said. “We didn’t need their permission.”
MCRI has no plans to change the form of its petition,
O’Brien said, and it urges all petitioners to continue
collecting signatures. The group will submit its signatures in
“full confidence” that they will pass legal muster.
But the group’s opponents disagree. “It is obvious
that it’s an attempt to deceive the public,” Washington
said. Manderfield also wrote that the current petition leaves the
MCRI campaign faces a number of other challenges in its drive to
eliminate race-conscious policies. The group seeks 400,000 to
425,000 signatures by June 15 — mainly to ensure that most
signatures are valid. MCRI is also trying to raise $4 million for
Campaign officials said they are unaware of the number of
signatures collected. It is also unknown how much money the group