NAACP finds hope in judge assigned to EM voting case
By T. Kelly
The Michigan Citizen
DETROIT —“Bold” is how NAACP attorney Melvin “Butch” Hollowell described Federal District Court Judge Paul D. Borman, assigned to hear the voting rights case brought by the Detroit Chapter of the NAACP to end the Emergency Manager law, Public Act 436.
Hollowell, speaking at the Chapter’s General Membership meeting held May 23 at MGM Grand, said Borman was the judge who granted an injunction to welfare recipients who were cut off of aid by Gov. Rick Snyder. Borman ruled the recipients had a right to appeal their dismissals. It was a ”bold” ruling, Hollowell said.
He summed up the three voting rights violations the NAACP case addresses.
First, the equal dignity of the vote is at stake. As an example Hollowell said Detroit voters elected the sitting council and mayor, yet now they have no power under emergency management. “Our friends in Grand Rapids elected their officials, who still have power,” he said. Thus, emergency management has created two classes of voters.
“That inequality is a violation of the dignity of the vote,” Hollowell said.
The second voting rights violation is the creation of an unevenness with a discriminatory impact.
“How did the state select cities to put under emergency management?” he asked. Their choices have resulted in 54.4 percent of African Americans in the state living under emergency managers versus 1.3 percent of the white population.
Yet, there are predominantly white cities that had the same fiscal scores as the City of Pontiac, which is under emergency management, and areas across the state with worse fiscal scores that are not under emergency managers.
Finally, Hollowell said, due to past discrimination in voting, Michigan is one of 16 states under jurisdiction of section five of the civil right act. Accordingly, any change in voting has to get prior justice department approval. The state didn’t do that, he said.
Proposal One on the November ballot gave voters a chance to speak on emergency mangers. Fifty-four percent of Michigan voters rejected emergency management, yet five weeks later in a lame duck session lawmakers passed a new emergency manager law.
“In their haste to pass the new law, they forgot to get federal approval,” Hollowell said.
Economist and former President Clinton cabinet member Robert Reich provided a great quote for the lawsuit, Hollowell said. You cannot throw out the Constitution because of bad finances.
The NAACP is seeking an injunction to stop EMs across the state.