Racially targeted fraud pervaded the process of collecting petition signatures for the so-called Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. This anti-affirmative action amendment being pushed by California millionaire Ward Connerly must not proceed to the ballot on the basis of this far-reaching racialized deception.

Virtually every black voter who signed the petition was deceived into thinking they were signing a petition for affirmative action, rather than the truth, which is that they were signing a proposal that aims to outlaw all affirmative action for women and minorities in Michigan. Even without the growing number of people coming forward, any honest person thinking it over would come to the same conclusion that Johnathan Crutcher, a sophomore at Cody High School, came to when he told the state Board of Canvassers, “There’s no way you can get black people to sign a petition against affirmative action without lies and deceit.” Now judges, journalists, lawyers and trade union officials have come forward to make clear that they were lied to by people petitioning for MCRI.

To deceive black parents in Detroit and other Michigan cities into participating in an attack on their children’s opportunities for college is both unacceptable and illegal. The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in a 1996 case that signatures gathered on the basis of fraud were every bit as invalid as forged signatures.

The state Board of Canvassers is charged with safeguarding the ballot initiative process from fraud. Honesty in elections requires such safeguards. The state attorney general, Mike Cox, a longtime opponent of affirmative action and supporter of MCRI, blocked the state Board of Canvassers from investigating the racially targeted fraud that has marred the MCRI petition effort. The state Board of Canvassers, while barred by the attorney general from investigating the fraud, nevertheless refused to certify the petition for the ballot. The issue is currently headed for a Court of Appeals hearing.

Basic fairness and honesty in elections requires that these petitions be thrown out. The state authorities with the responsibility to safeguard Michigan’s ballot initiative process must not certify MCRI for the ballot. Outlawing affirmative action by means of fraud and deceit is a simple recipe for long-term bitterness, anger and polarization in our state.

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Stenvig is a Rackham student and a BAMN organizer.

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