APPEALS COURT ORDERS CANVASSERS TO CERTIFY M.C.R.I. PROPOSAL The Board of State Canvassers "breached its clear legal duty" to certify ballot petitions for a proposal that would bar affirmative action in Michigan universities and governments, the Court of Appeals ruled Monday in ordering that the canvassers certify the petitions for the 2006 election. The court ruled in Michigan Civil Rights Initiative v. Canvassers (docket No. 264204) without hearing arguments. The decision was considered a high priority for the court with action requested by Tuesday. Jennifer Gratz, spokesperson for the MCRI, said she was "very happy" with the decision. The duty of the canvassers is limited and the court has ordered them to stick to their duties, she said. The canvassers refused to certify the group's petitions last August, saying there were questions about the methods the group used to collect those signatures. The organization By Any Means Necessary had argued MCRI had committed fraud in getting signatures, telling signatories the proposal would in fact promote affirmative action. A spokesperson for By Any Means Necessary said the organization would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. "What this says in practical terms is that black persons can be defrauded and no one can do anything about it," said Luke Massie, national vice-chair of the organization. That the decision comes as the nation is mourning Rosa Parks is particularly insulting, he said. In the per curiam decision, Judges Henry Saad, Mark Cavanagh and Kathleen Jansen rejected the claims of the intervenors in the case, BAMN, who argued that the Legislature had given the canvassers broad authority to hold hearings or investigations on any matter regarding petitions. "It is clear to us that the Legislature has conferred upon the board the authority to canvass the petition 'to ascertain if the petitions have been signed by the requisite number of qualified and registered electors,'" the court said. "Here, the challengers and intervenors seek an investigation that goes beyond the four corners of the petition itself (i.e., the validity of the signatures or registration status of the electors) into the circumstances by which the signatures were obtained. Such an investigation is clearly beyond the scope of the board's authority," the court said. Doyle O'Connor, a Democratic member of the canvassers, said the ruling does not answer the question of what one does with potential fraud in petitions. "I would hate to think this would allow for fraud of this sort, somebody should be in a position of addressing this," he said. REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES: U.S. Senate Republican candidate Keith Butler said Monday he would not support the anti-affirmative action proposal because it goes "too far" and has "unintended consequences." Saying he does not support quotas, Mr. Butler said diversity remains critical to the development of society and the proposal would not outlaw other forms of discrimination such as legacy admissions, "cronyism," or geographic favoritism. Meanwhile, U.S. Senate candidate Jerry Zandstra challenged Mr. Butler and Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard to a debate on the issue.