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Appeals court stalls petition approval

Maureen Taylor of Michigan Welfare Rights Organization at June 29 rally. DALE RICH PHOTO

Attorneys, activists occupy Cadillac building lobby

By Eric T. Campbell
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Attorneys for the coalition that collected over 226,000 signatures to repeal Public Act 4 (PA4) are now worried that the Michigan Court of Appeals is using stall tactics to stop the effort.

A three-member panel ruled June 14 that the petitions are compliant with state law, clearing the way for a referendum on PA4, or the emergency manager law, to appear on the ballot in November’s general election.

But contrary to normal judicial procedure, they have neglected to include an order for the Board of State Canvassers to certify the petitions immediately.

On June 29, over 70 activists occupied the lobby of the Cadillac Building with the intent of staging a sit-in on the 14th floor. They continue to apply pressure on Appeals Court judges, demanding that they follow through on their ruling.

“They failed to give the ruling what’s called, ‘immediate affect’,” says NAACP lead counsel, Melvin “Butch” Hollowell. “You never see that in an election case. We think its a deliberate strategy to delay the right of people to vote — we’re not going to let that happen.”

Attorney Herb Sanders filed a motion on June 20 asking the Court of Appeals to order the State Canvassers to certify the PA4 petitions within seven days.

A week later, Sanders and attorneys for the coalition, Stand Up For Democracy, had not received a response.

“These judges are hiding up on the 14th floor,” Hollowell continued. “The week-long period for deliberation expired last night and we demand a ruling.”

The Michigan Bureau of Elections has determined Aug. 27 to be the deadline for ballot measures and referendum language to be submitted and approved for the November election ballot.

After the coalition Stand Up For Democracy (SUFD) collected over 226,000 signatures to appeal PA4, a technical challenge to the petition was brought by the group, Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility.

Based on the petition’s type size, the Board of State Canvassers on April 26 voted to deny their certification. That decision was appealed and overturned by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Attorneys for SUFD now say that legal action at the federal level is an option if their motion continues to be ignored.

Sanders says the intervention of federal courts during the 1960s civil rights struggles serves as a model.

“We will continue to act and be diligent, to the extent that the Court of Appeals ignores our motion,” Sanders told the Michigan Citizen amongst a chorus of activists during the June 29 protest action. “We may ask the federal government to compel the state to enforce the rights of Michigan citizens.”

PA4 petition supporters failed to confront Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who held a press conference at the Cadillac Building the same day. Schuette bypassed protesters in the lobby without incident, according to Hollowell.

Protestors hoped to ask him to address voting rights violations related to the continued petitions to repeal PA4, according to Maureen Taylor, of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization.

“We wanted to approach the AG and tell him about continued violations of state and federal law,” Taylor told the Michigan Citizen.

Instead, building security shut down elevators for two hours, preveniting access to the 10th floor where Schuette was scheduled to speak. The rally continued in the lobby with a chorus of church sprituals and uplifting words from local clergymembers.

Schuette in his role as Attorney General, according to Hollowell, could intervene and force the Court of Appeals to enforce their ruling. Gov. Rick Snyder also has the authority to demand that the signatures be certified.

“We need more people invested and we will be back,” Reverend Edwin Rowe of Central United Methodist said. “Most of our neighbors don’t know what’s happening to their vote.”

Rev. D. Alexander Bullock, president of the Highland Park branch NAACP and pastor at Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church, says people need to realize that the petitions to repeal PA4 are not yet certified and the referendum is not on the ballot.

In fact, petition challengers could still appeal the Court of Appeals decision to the Michigan Supreme Court.

“This whole process has been co-opted by partisan politics,” Bullock said in the lobby of the Cadillac Building. “We have to escalate our protest so that people in the streets understand that the law does not reign in Michigan.”

The Michigan Citizen submitted inquiries to spokepersons for Schuette and Gov. Snyder regarding their ability to expedite the PA4 ruling by the Court of Appeals.

By the time this article went to print, no replies were received.

Contact Eric T. Campbell at ericcampbell@michigancitizen.com

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