Payne: What the font?

Posted by hpayne on April 26, 2012

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers deadlocked 2-2 on party lines this morning, killing a Big Labor-backed ballot initiative to end the emergency manager law because Republican canvassers said petitions carried the wrong font size.

Stand Up For Democracy, the group representing EM law opponents, immediately jumped in the GOPer’s faces shouting “shame” and “fascists” (ah, that Democratic civility) and vowed to appeal the decision.

But, says Leon Drolet, this is how the canvassing system is supposed to work.

Drolet should know. He headed perhaps the most controversial ballot proposal of the last decade – the 2006 Michigan Civil Rights Initiative banning racial discrimination in government hiring and admissions. MCRI was defeated by canvassers but ultimately won on appeal – and on election day.

Ballot initiatives, says Drolet, are supposed to be hard. After all, they change the state constitution.

“Either enforce the rules, or no one complies,” says Drolet about the font details which are one of many that canvassers are asked to enforce. In the case of MCRI, says Drolet, the canvassers threw out the initiative on purely political pique – 3 of 4 petitioners wanted to continue racial discrimination in university admissions, claiming “diversity” trumped color-blindness.

But MCRI ultimately won, says Drolet, because the Appeals court not only approved their petition’s language – but because they were careful to abide by the rules. For example, MCRI threw out thousands of ballots because they either contained too many signatures per page or because they were photo-copied – both potential red flags to Democratic canvassers itching to defeat the proposal.

By contrast, anti-EM law petitioners refused to submit their ballots to canvassers beforehand in order to ensure that their font sizes, etc. were up to code. Big mistake, says Drolet. Rules is rules. Welcome to the ballot wars.


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