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Michigan Court of Appeals hears arguments on EM ballot question

District I offices of the Michigan Court if Appeals in Detroit
Mike Russell
wikimedia commons
District I offices of the Michigan Court if Appeals in Detroit

The question of whether voters should get to weigh in on the state’s emergency manager law now rests with the Michigan Court of Appeals.

A panel of the court heard arguments today both for and against putting the referendum on the November ballot.

A coalition of labor and other activist groups collected more than 220,000 petition signatures to do just that.

But the state Board of Canvassers blocked the question based on a complaint that some of the type on the referendum petitions was in the wrong size.

Detroit NAACP director Reverend Wendell Anthony says state officials are just using the font size issue to suppress a popular vote.

“What is up with this? Is this America, or is this not America? Is this Michigan, or is this Mississippi?” Anthony said.

But John Pirich, an attorney for a group that opposes the referendum, disagrees.

“This is not just like horseshoes where you get to get, like, close,” Pirich said. “It’s a very, very specific part of the procedure and just like the Legislature operates under specific doctrines, so should this process, and that’s what the constitution demands.”

The attorney for the referendum drive says the claim about the font size is a bogus one. But, he says even if it were true, that’s no reason to keep the question off the ballot and defy the wishes of the many voters who signed petitions.

That argument is strengthened by a recent revelation that a Michigan State University professor found the petitions most likely did use the correct font size.

The Board of Canvassers never heard that information, and it won’t be presented to the Court of Appeals.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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