In a just-released ruling, the Michigan Supreme Court has ordered the Board of State Canvassers to certify for the ballot the Reproductive Freedom For All petition intended to enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution. “It is undisputed that there are sufficient signatures to warrant certification,” notes the court, while shooting down arguments over “sufficient space between certain words.”
Republicans on the Board of State Canvassers refused to certify the ballot measure a week ago despite a record number of signatures presented, claiming missing spaces in one version of the petition was an invalidating flaw. The state’s Supreme Court rejected that argument, with Chief Justice Bridget McCormack noting that “the challengers have not produced a single signer who claims to have been confused by the limited-spacing sections in the full text portion of the proposal” and calling the decision of the Republican board members a “sad marker of the times.”
“They would disenfranchise millions of Michiganders not because they believe the many thousands of Michiganders who signed the proposal were confused by it, but because they think they have identified a technicality that allows them to do so, a game of gotcha gone very bad,” wrote McCormack.
In a separate ruling, the court also ordered the board to certify for the ballot a measure to expand voting rights that was also blocked by the the board’s Republican members. The court’s willingness to reject partisan gamesmanship meant to deny the right of voters to even challenge recent Republican maneuvers to restrict rights is an important reminder of how vital state court races remain.
The Republican member of the court up for reelection in November, Justice Brian Zahra, dissented in both rulings. Democratic Justice Richard Bernstein, who is also on the ballot, voted with the majority in both cases. In a footnote in a concurring opinion, Bernstein lacerated Zahra’s dissent:
Justice Zahra notes that, as a wordsmith and member of this Court, he finds it “an unremarkable proposition that spaces between words matter.” As a blind person who is also a wordsmith and a member of this Court, I find it unremarkable to note that the lack of visual spacing has never mattered much to me.
Democrats are defending a narrow 4-3 majority on the court, which they first won in 2020.
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