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by Autumn Smith
On Wednesday, August 15th, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers refused to certify a union-backed petition known as the Protect Our Jobs petition. The canvassers asserted that the petition does not meet constitutional requirements. (Michigan, like 23 other states, is a petition and referendum state --which means that if enough citizens sign a petitition to put an initiative on the ballot, it has to be done). The Protect Our Jobs Petition supports a proposal that would add collective bargaining rights to the Michigan Constitution.
The petition submitted nearly 700,000 signatures for this proposal. This is more than double the number required to have this item be put on the ballot, to go before voters in the November.
Yet two of the State Canvassers on the Board -- voting along party lines -- refused to certify this legal petition and refused to follow the steps that guarantee Michiganers of their legal rights -- of being able to place legislation on the ballot if enough signatures are submitted.
The 2-2 tie means that the ballot as of now will NOT go before voters in the November election. Attorneys for the Coalition that led the campaign to amass these signatures have stated that they plan to take this refusal before the Michigan Supreme Court.
But other petitions that have enough signatures -- but that support a Conservative position -- have recently been certified by this same Board. The Michigan Board of State Canvassers did vote 4-0, for instance, to limit the collective bargaining rights of home health workers.
Earlier this year, as I reported on DailyCloudt, the board of canvassers had deadlocked -- similarly along party lines -- over certifying the petitions they had received, asking them to repeal Public Act 4 of 2011. (This Act is more commonly known as the "Emergency Manager Law," and it takes Michigan's legisative powers out of the hands of the people's elected representatives, and puts it into the hands of a few appointed autocrats. The Michigan Supreme Court had then overruled the board of canvassers' decision to not certify these legal petitions, and confirmed that these petitions in fact did meet the standards needed to have the initiative put on the ballot in November. This means that the voters will in fact have their legal right fulfilled -- and they will be able to vote out the Emergency Manager Law, if they wish to, in the upcoming election.)
The overreaching of the Michigan Board of State Canvassers -- who are supposed to be making sure the law around petitions and placing items on the ballot is fairly applied, not arbitraily advancing and quashing the people's petitions based, seemingly, on political considerations of their own -- is blocking the proper workings of democracy in a referendum state.
:: photo credit, M.Kahyl Stevenson ::
Autumn Smith is a political activist from Michigan. Her activism has targeted key issues including, Mich. Enbridge Oil Spill, LGBT issues, HIV education, anti-bullying, reproductive rights, Occupy Movement & petitioning elected officials for recall.