GOP Shows Its Petty Ways in Battle Over Emergency Manager Law
GOP partisans scored big Thursday in their effort to battle back opponents of their radical takeover agenda .
The Board of State Canvassers deadlocked 2-2 along party lines Thursday on whether Michiganians will get to vote in November on a repeal of the controversial emergency manager law — sparking angry shouts of "shame" and "fascists" from the audience.
The vote means for now the question won't appear on the general election ballot, but supporters said they'd challenge the decision before the Court of Appeals to try to force the question onto the ballot.
While the 2-2 deadlock obviously angered many, the move probably doesn't come as much of a surprise to anyone who's been paying attention. With so many of the political stars aligned in the GOP's favor on the takeover issue, it's hardly shocking that Republicans would be undeterred by something as piddling as, y'know, the will of the people.
And really, it's not as if the GOP broke the law. With its two Dem/two Republican make-up, the Board of Canvassers was basically designed to be partisan from its inception so, given the extreme nature of the legislation the GOP has so shamelessly sponsored, no one should be stunned that Republicans would seize on the board's divided loyalties.
But should people be pissed? Oh yeah.
After all, the sheer pettiness of the tactic can't be overlooked. This isn't about whether Republicans care that petition signees had every chance to be fully informed about the petition. After all, they're only complaining about the header because they know the petition language is easily legible and unquestionably the "proper" size. They also know that no group gets 203,238 signatures on the most controversial piece of state legislation in recent memory by duping people with too-small print.
And thanks to the magic of typography in the digital age, there's also the question of whether Republicans have any real legal point at all, petty or otherwise.
But that doesn't stop them from pressing on:
Bob LaBrant of Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility said the petitions turned in by the pro-repeal group Stand Up for Democracy aren't legal because the heading is printed in a type that's smaller than required. A printer's affidavit says the heading size is correct, but LaBrant contends that "two experienced printers" disagreed.
"It's somewhere between 10 and 12-point, rather than the 14-point size required, he said, suggesting the type was the size generally used in the body of a letter rather than in a larger heading.
Assuming they're right—a huge assumption, mind you—what are we talking here? An eighth of an inch? A quarter-inch at most? Is it really fair to allow a handful of paid political operatives to invalidate such a substantial expression of public will by bitching about a minor printing technicality?
If you go by recent history, the answer is a resounding "no." As a memo from the Secretary of State's office points out, the board has almost never refused to certify petitions over something as minor as font size. And then there's this, from a 1976 state court ruling on a particular petition challenge:
(Hat tip to Eclectablog.com)
We infer from the foregoing a recognition on the part of the drafters and adopters of the Constitution of 1963 that, to be useful and readily available, the initiative power should not be hamstrung by technical petition requirements which have no bearing on the informatory purpose of the petition.
And yet that's clearly what the Republicans are looking to do in this case, hobble the ability of everyday citizens to challenge the right wing's crazy-ass agenda. Now, with the case likely to go before the Michigan Court of Appeals (which many view as stacked in favor of the Republicans many are rightly concerned about whether they'll have a chance to speak at the ballot box on this matter.
Given the anti-democratic spirit of Public Act 4, it's little wonder that GOP leaders believe their best chance on this issue rests on whether they can deny citizens the chance to vote.
PS — Thanks for swinging by the new site. After a few months away from the inter webs, I'm definitely looking forward to getting back into the mix over here at Deadline Detroit. Let's get it.