M.C.R.I. REMAINS ON BALLOT WITH JUDGE'S RULING
Opponents to the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative have lost another
court battle to keep the measure off the November ballot, as Detroit
U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow refused to remove the proposal from
the ballot even though he said its promoters "engaged in systematic
Opponents had hoped a finding that supporters of the MCRI engaged in
fraud - a charge the organization has vigorously denied - would be
enough to disqualify the measure from the ballot under the federal
Voting Rights Act.
But in his ruling, which came down late Tuesday, Mr. Tarnow said the
MCRI "appears to have targeted all Michigan voters for deception without
regard to race." That equality of treatment meant the initiative could
not be removed under the federal law, he said.
The Voting Rights Act is not a general anti-voter fraud statute, Mr.
Tarnow said, but prohibits practices that result in unequal access to
the political process because of race.
"The defendants' conduct, though unprincipled, did not violate the
act," Mr. Tarnow said.
Jennifer Gratz, the chair of the MCRI, said: "We are obviously happy
that the people of Michigan will be able to decide whether our
government should be picking winners and losers based on race and
Officials of By Any Means Necessary, which brought the case joined by
Governor Jennifer Granholm and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, had asked
for Mr. Tarnow to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the proposal
from the November ballot.
George Washington, attorney for BAMN, said the ruling would be appealed
by the end of the week.
Shanta Driver, another attorney for BAMN, said the findings of the
federal judge and the Civil Rights Commission show some legal body has
to be able to act to take the issue from the ballot. "Everybody is
saying our hands are tied, we can't act," she said.
But she argued the fact that people of all races were deceived does not
make the action any less discriminatory. "When you direct an action at
black people, many tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of white
people are pulled in the wake of that," Ms. Driver said.
Dave Waymire, a spokesperson for One United Michigan, another opponent
of the proposal, said Ward Connerly - who led similar drives to ban
affirmative action in California and Washington - "was intent on
deceiving the public from day one." Mr. Waymire said he hoped the
voting public would see through the deceit.
Mr. Waymire also said it was now time for the Legislature to look into
the question of tricking individuals to sign petitions. "It is time
the Legislature look at the growing business of lying to the public to
get proposals on the ballot," he said since there are charges supporters
of the Stop Overspending proposal also attempted to dupe signers.
The measure would outlaw affirmative action at Michigan universities
and in governments on the basis of race or gender.
In his 34-page opinion, Mr. Tarnow was unstinting in his criticism of
MCRI officials and of state agencies that he said could have
investigated the alleged fraudulent practices.
"All Michigan voters, whether supporters or opponents of affirmative
action, should be concerned by the actions taken by MCRI in its attempt
to place the proposed amendment on the November 2006 ballot. In
particular, opponents of affirmative action should be concerned by what
the MCRI has done while purporting to act in their name. If the
proposal eventually passes, it will be stained by well-documented acts
of fraud and deception that the defendants, as a matter of fact, have
not credibly denied," Mr. Tarnow said.
"The people of Michigan should also be concerned by the indifference
exhibited by the state agencies that could have investigated and
addressed MCRI's actions but failed to do so. With the exception of
the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, the record shows that the state
has demonstrated an almost complete institutional indifference to the
credible allegations of voter fraud raised by plaintiffs. If the
institutions established by the people of Michigan, including the
Michigan courts, Board of State Canvassers, Secretary of State, Attorney
General, and Bureau of Elections, had taken the allegations of voter
fraud seriously, then it is quite possible that this case would not have
come to federal court. However, the Court cannot turn back the clock,
and can only deal with the facts that are presented to it," he said.
When the Michigan Supreme Court refused to take the proposal off the
ballot, the court effectively said that each signer had to be
responsible for actually reading the proposal.
And Ms. Gratz discounted comments from the judge that the state should
have taken action to protect voters from misleading statements in
circulating the petitions. "The judge's commentary is nothing more
than judicial activism," she said. "I call on members of Congress to
look into his conduct. He is nothing more than a partisan hack with a
Ms. Gratz expected the ruling would be appealed. "They don't seem to
care what judges say, what courts say," she said of BAMN