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HIGH COURT REFUSES TO HEAR APPEAL ON BALLOT ORDER


The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear arguments that the Court of Appeals overstepped its authority in placing the anti-affirmative action proposal on the ballot following a Board of State Canvassers deadlock regarding alleged fraud in the petition gathering process.   But opponents said their battle to keep the issue from the ballot is not over, saying the first step is asking the court to reconsider its decision.

The 6-1 order (Michigan Civil Rights Initiative v. Board of State Canvassers, SC docket No. 130342) said the court was "not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this Court."

The October 31 action by the Court of Appeals directed the canvassers to certify to the ballot the proposed constitutional amendment banning most affirmative action programs by public bodies.   The court had determined the board did not have authority to refuse to certify the petitions because of allegations that signers were misled about what the proposal would do.

The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative had collected far more signatures than were required to gain ballot access and Jennifer Gratz, executive director of the group, said the latest court action rejects charged political rhetoric in favor of the rule of law.

"MCRI set the gold standard in following state law when it collected more than half-a-million petition signatures to place this issue before voters, and the Supreme Court's decision not to take up BAMN's appeal is further evidence of this," she said in a statement. "Now Michigan voters - not BAMN and its supporters in big labor, big business and big government - will get to decide the important issue of whether race should be a factor in decisions made by our government."

Luke Massie, spokesperson for By Any Means Necessary, said the group will file a motion with the court seeking reconsideration of the issue in hopes the fraud issue will be addressed by the court. 

"It's a scandal for the Supreme Court to refuse to hear any evidence regarding voter fraud and to cram this on to the ballot," he said. "If this were any other issue and it had this level of deceit, it would not go forward, but because it's an issue of race relations, everyone gets scared and skittish."

He said the state has a petition process to "keep con artists from changing the constitution."

Elections officials have said that even if signatures are disallowed that were alleged to be affected by misrepresentation of the proposal as one that protects affirmative action, the petitions carried more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. The petitions contained 455,373 signatures, with 317,757 valid signatures of registered voters required.

Mr. Massie said that, too, is an open question, contended that tens of thousands of black and white petition signers were misled. "This is a question of voting rights," he said.

In the action Thursday, only Justice Marilyn Kelly would have granted the motion to hear the appeal.

In December after the board again split on certifying the petitions despite the October decision, the Court of Appeals took the additional step of ordering the board to approve ballot language in January, an action that typically does not take place until a few months prior to the November election.

Granholm spokesperson Liz Boyd said the governor has not had a chance to review the court action, but said it was not a surprise.   It is not clear what the next action by the administration would be but Ms. Boyd said, "We know that the Civil Rights Commission has taken up the cause of looking into allegations of fraud and it is clear that people think they were duped."

Civil Rights spokesperson Harold Core said the commission, which will hold one more hearing on the fraud issues in Lansing, said the members voted last week to ask the Supreme Court to stay any action until it completed its investigation.