COMMISSION: M.C.R.I. FRAUD WAS STRATEGIC
The Michigan Civil Rights Commission charged Monday that the practices
of deceiving people, particularly African-Americans, into signed the
petition for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative was a strategic move
made by the group pushing the ballot proposal.
Commission Chair Mark Bernstein said in turning over the commission's
findings that, "We have provided a silver platter to the Attorney
General and Supreme Court to conduct an even more thorough
investigation. This is about conduct (of the petitioners) not
Individuals involved in the MCRI who attended the press conference in
Lansing (they were also held in Detroit and Grand Rapids) said that the
commission is prejudiced against the ballot proposal, calling it a
"Kangaroo Court," and that it was declaring the group guilty of fraud
when the courts, Department of State and Attorney General have already
declared the allegations to be untrue.
But in conducting a five-month long set of hearings and analysis, the
commission concluded in its 16-page report that, "Two notable and
distressing truths emerge from the hundreds of pages of testimony
included in the report. First, the instances of misrepresentation
regarding the content of the MCRI ballot language are not isolated or
random. Acts of misrepresentation occurred across the state, in multiple
locations in the same communities, and over long periods of time.
Second, the impact of these acts of deception is substantial. It
appears that the acts documented in the report represent a highly
coordinated, systematic strategy involving many circulators and, most
importantly, thousands of voters."
While the responsibility is there for both the person signing the
petition to understand what they are signing and for the circulator to
honestly tell the person what the petition involves, "A failure of the
first responsibility should not permit abrogation of the second. The
conduct of MCRI to avoid false and misleading statements is of paramount
importance irrespective of all other events."
The commission heard testimony took testimony in oral or affidavit form
from hundreds of people, including several African-American people who
said they were told the petition was to support affirmative action, so
they signed it or helped circulate it.
The commission is asking for some sort of reprieve for the aggrieved by
the Attorney General or Supreme Court, including having the court
reconsider the leave of appeal it filed in dealing with Michigan Civil
Rights Initiative v. Board of State Canvassers. The group is also
asking that the Legislature implement preventative laws so that this
situation does not happen in the future.
Nate Bailey with the Attorney General's Office said that they received
the commission's report and are reviewing it. He did not know of any
precedent for the report to bring about a revocation of the initiative
from the ballot, as did Harold Core, spokesperson for the Department of
Officials with the MCRI have repeatedly said their petition gatherers
did not use fraudulent tactics to gain signatures, and have criticized
the commission as a politically biased organization.
ENDORSEMENTS: A coalition of chambers of commerce in Grand Rapids,
Muskegon, Holland and Grand Haven has come out opposed to the MCRI,
according to One United Michigan.
Meanwhile, Gregory Creswell, the Libertarian candidate for governor,
has announced he is supporting the MCRI.