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Michigan Board Throws Out Anti-Affirmative Action Petitions

by NewStandard Staff

Groups working to protect affirmative action in Michigan, were heartened Monday when the State Board of Canvassers voted to reject petitions for an anti-affirmative action amendment on the grounds that their wording was misleading to voters.

Apr. 14, 2004 –

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On the heals of a judicial ruling, the Michigan State Board of Canvassers reached a unanimous decision to reject petitions being circulated in favor of a proposed anti-affirmative action amendment, according to the Associated Press. The vote represented a reversal of an earlier decision by the Board to approve the petitions, which are being circulated by a group controversially called the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), a coalition of individuals and organizations formed to put an end to affirmative action in Michigan. A coalition of civil rights groups, unions and businesses had legally challenged the petitions, which seek to put an amendment that would ban public universities and other agencies from granting preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin on the ballot. They achieved a legal victory on March 25, when Judge Paula Manderfield of the Ingham County Circuit Court ruled that the ballot initiative was misleading and failed to inform voters that the proposed amendment would change or abolish the equal protection clause in the Michigan Constitution.

"The Judge recognized that the so-called Michigan Civil Rights Initiative was deliberately lying to the citizens. The MCRI cannot repeal Michigan’s civil rights laws without telling the voters of their intent," said George B. Washington, the attorney for the groups fighting the ballot initiative in court, reports, a Michigan-based news website.

While groups opposing the amendment say the ruling and the Board’s subsequent decision mean the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative will have to start their petition drive over with new petitions, a spokesperson for the MCRI said they will continue to collect signatures on the same petition. Tim O’Brian, the manager of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, told the Lansing Bureau, "We did not need the approval of the Board of State Canvassers to begin with. This court ruling is ridiculous. I am absolutely confident it will be turned over on appeal.''

Washington, however, is confident the court’s ruling will stick. "If they go ahead with the same words, they're no more legal in July than they are in March,'' he told Lansing Bureau.

Last month, civil rights activists in Colorado won another victory for affirmative action when a close vote in the Colorado State Senate defeated an anti-affirmative action bill, entitled the "Colorado Civil Rights Act," another controversial title.

In June 2003, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that it was constitutional for the University of Michigan Law School to consider the race of applicants in order to create a diverse student population.

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