Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

MI High Court Favors MCRI

13. July 2006 • Ari Paul
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From the Free Press:

The Michigan Supreme Court closed the door Thursday on a challenge to the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, denying a request to rehear a decision to place the issue before voters in November because of alleged irregularities in the collection of petition signatures.

In a five-page order, Justice Stephen Markman said the allegations, even if true, would not justify removing the issue from the ballot.

A citizen “cannot blame others when he signs a petition without knowing what it says,” Markman wrote. “It is not to excuse misrepresentations, when they occur, to recognize nonetheless that is the citizen’s duty to inform himself about the substance of the petition before signing it.”

Opponents of the ballot proposal, which would ban government affirmative action programs that use race or gender preferences in hiring, contracting and university admissions, claimed that petition signers had been lied to about the effect of the amendment.



  1. Thanks Ari.

    You’re posting a lot lately huh? Just like old days…
       —David Boyle    Jul. 13 '06 - 09:57PM    #
  2. Speaking of misleading petitions, there was some dude on the bus a few months ago gathering signatures to “stop the state government from overspending”... sounded fishy as heck. Turns out it was Headlee on steriods ... Why the bus to Ypsi? Targeting folks who might be less-educated than kids heading to North Campus?

    Seriously, call me anti-democratic, but we need to seriously curtail the ability for a buncha well-funded petition-drivers to throw items on the ballot that a typically undereducated and easily misled population votes on. TABOR, Measure 37… now MRCI and SOS in MI. There’s a reason we elect policymakers to draft and debate hopefully well-thought-out legislation… the average voter will shoot our government and society in the foot even further than they already have been. As if Michigan needs another weight around our neck. We’re an economic (and cultural, to a large degree) backwater as-is, we don’t need to be a Third World territory.


       —Brandon    Jul. 14 '06 - 12:23AM    #
  3. “a typically undereducated and easily misled population votes on”

    Or doesn’t, as is more likely the case. Voting isn’t as simple as signing a piece of paper held in front of you. I think we’re ‘stuck’ with improving the ‘well-informed citizenry’ side of the equation, which is a good thing (and an opportunity), imo.


       —Steve Bean    Jul. 14 '06 - 12:28AM    #
  4. I think many people do sign petitions without reading them or asking questions. Some people have the attitude that “even if I don’t support it, people deserve a chance to vote on it”. I heard this pitch being made by the local SOS collector of signatures. But don’t just assume that translate into support or that voters are a bunch of rubes. Ask Mr. DeVos how his slick, well-funded campaign for school vouchers went after it got onto the ballot.


       —John Q.    Jul. 14 '06 - 01:30AM    #
  5. Touche, John Q. Signing petitions and getting things passed are quite different. There’s a lot of research on the success of ballot initiatives, and there’s a lot of evidence that voters are inclined to vote against intiatives, and need to be persuaded to vote for them.

    still. I think this might pass. The voucher thing had lots of loopholes and those scared off voters.


       —Just a homeowner    Jul. 14 '06 - 02:15AM    #
  6. Answer is better education etc., not less democracy. Otherwise, we might as well get rid of popular election of U.S. Senators; or maybe even rid of the franchise for folks earning less than $50,000 a year, or without a bachelor’s degree…


       —David Boyle    Jul. 14 '06 - 02:17AM    #
  7. Seriously, call me anti-democratic, but we need to seriously curtail the ability for a buncha well-funded petition-drivers to throw items on the ballot that a typically undereducated and easily misled population votes on.

    There’s a reason we elect policymakers to draft and debate hopefully well-thought-out legislation

    Why would you trust an ‘undereducated and easily misled population’ to elect thoughtful policy-makers any more than you’d trust them to vote on citizen initiatives?

    As John and ‘homeowner’ say, voters don’t vote yes on any old thing, and I can guarantee you that the MCRI will be intensely discussed before the election. Practically nobody will be voting without an idea of what the MCRI is about.

    I was against the gay-marriage ban in Michigan, but I don’t think voters were misled into voting for it—they knew very well what they were voting for. And that will be the case again if the MCRI passes.


       —mw    Jul. 14 '06 - 11:36AM    #
  8. A saying worth pondering:

    “No one’s life or property are safe when the legislature is in session.”


       —David Cahill    Jul. 14 '06 - 12:41PM    #
  9. I’d argue that policymakers by their very nature are forced to spend time examining and debating issues and understand the potential impact of their decisions. Some of them may have a real agenda to starve government, but they know they are doing it when they vote to do so.

    This SOS thing? Unless there is a large, well-funded campaign (read: TV ads) to counter it, I can’t imagine the average voter, wooed to the ballot box by the gubernatorial race, will have any real understanding of what this will do to our state and their communities. It sounds perfectly reasonable and sensible to the average Joe to keep government “in check,” especially in the anti-tax atmosphere that seems to prevail in this (and most) states.

    Of course we need voter education. I think a lot of voters are too busy/lazy/disinterested to do their homework, though. Hold all the public forums you want, but I think there are a great number of voters who make decisions based on TV propaganda, or even reading the language in the ballot box for the first time, when they’d really showed up to choose a governor. Maybe we really need to outlaw private spending in campaigns and use public forums to force a more nuanced discussion of what are often very complex issues.

    I suppose this applies at a local level as well. Of course folks are going to sign CARD’s petition… a lot of people probably don’t even know what “TIF” means, but when one talks of “subsidizing developers,” folks will jump on board. People sign petitions, as well as vote, often based on emotion, generalizations, a lack of information, or propagandistic advertising. I’m not saying this is remotely a good thing, but it appears to be the state of electoral politics.


       —Brandon    Jul. 14 '06 - 02:00PM    #
  10. “A saying worth pondering:

    “No one’s life or property are safe when the legislature is in session.” ”

    ....that’s rich: Dave Cahill, the king of using the Ann Arbor legislature to tell others what they can and cannot do with their own property wants to quote this famous liberatarian, “get your government hands off my life and property” quote from Judge Tucker.

    You are the biggest supporter of the legislature, Dave. But only when they do exactly what you want them to do…...


       —todd    Jul. 14 '06 - 03:12PM    #
  11. Of course we need voter education. I think a lot of voters are too busy/lazy/disinterested to do their homework, though. Hold all the public forums you want, but I think there are a great number of voters who make decisions based on TV propaganda, or even reading the language in the ballot box for the first time, when they’d really showed up to choose a governor.

    I think it’s a virtual certainty that the average voter goes to the polls better informed about controversial, high-profile ballot initiatives like the Same Sex Marriage Ban last year and the MCRI this year than about any of the down-ballot candidates. There will be a lot of TV ads, editorials, letters-to-the-editor, billboards, and so on conerning the MCRI (and I’m pretty confident that the anti-campaign will be much better funded). But it’ll probably still pass.


       —mw    Jul. 14 '06 - 05:46PM    #
  12. Er, I think there is a parity error in your wetware, todd. I don’t approve of much of what you mistakenly call the “Ann Arbor legislature” has done recently.

    As to the state legislature under the degenerate Republicans – the less said the better. 8-)


       —David Cahill    Jul. 14 '06 - 05:47PM    #
  13. Oh, I’m sure MCRI will make plenty of noise pre-election. I’m more concerned about SOS.


       —Brandon    Jul. 14 '06 - 06:05PM    #
  14. “I don’t approve of much of what you mistakenly call the “Ann Arbor legislature” has done recently.”

    And here, as usual, is my point.

    You’re slap-happy when there’s a loophole created by the legislature that’s of use to you, but you’re miffed if Council doesn’t make a property owner bend to your whims.

    And yeah, you’ve got a friend in me when it comes to the Republican weasels in Lansing.


       —todd    Jul. 14 '06 - 07:00PM    #
  15. “Answer is better education etc., not less democracy. Otherwise, we might as well get rid of popular election of U.S. Senators; or maybe even rid of the franchise for folks earning less than $50,000 a year, or without a bachelor’s degree…”

    If direct democracy is so great, why not get rid of senators altogether?

    Brandon is right: Though not a replacement for an educated and engaged populace, representative democracy helps moderate the ups, downs and injustices inherent to public opinion. Elected representatives tend to be better educated and have better access to information than their constitutents. They can make more responsible decisions.

    Direct democracy is great in small doses, but can be very bad on big issues. Case in point: The MCRI. While at Michigan, I only ran across a handful of people that I would say truly understood the social, racial and philosophical implications of the MCRI. (Frankly, I don’t think I understand it all.) Not that the Michigan legislature does either, but I imagine they’re in a better position to weigh in on this issue than the average Michigander.


       —Daniel Adams    Jul. 14 '06 - 10:11PM    #
  16. A mix of direct and indirect democracy is good, especially since you can’t easily say, “Oh, we’ll have initiatives and referendums on small issues, but not on big ones. ...” What would the dividing line be?

    I am all for representative democracy, but some actual direct democracy is not all bad. Unless we want to criticize Vermont for those town meetings or whatever…
       —David Boyle    Jul. 14 '06 - 10:17PM    #
  17. Is anyone else awake tonight thinking about what will happen if the K-16 initiative, SOS/TABOR and the SBT repeal all pass?

    Maybe it’s just me.


       —Alyssa P.    Jul. 15 '06 - 06:58AM    #
  18. Peter Luke, a columnist for Booth Newspapers, shares your concern. He reasonably describes the possible outcome as a three-way train wreck waiting to happen.


       —Jeff Dean    Jul. 15 '06 - 12:02PM    #