by Rick Thompson
LANSING- The Michigan Court of Claims yesterday dropped an Opinion in the MILegalize vs. Everybody lawsuit, and Everybody seemed to be the victor.
On to the next step- the Michigan Supreme Court.
In June MILegalize submitted 354,000 signatures on petition forms to state elections officials- 100,000 more than the law required to place the issue on the books. How do you ignore an extra 100,000 signatures? By refusing to count or verify them. That's exactly what the Bureau of Elections and the Board of State Canvassers did, citing a law 30 years old that has never been used before.
That law requires individual county clerks to certify all the signatures submitted which are older than 180 days- nearly half of the signatures provided by MILegalize fall into this category. No problem- except that, when petitioners tried to get clerks to verify the older signatures, the clerks refused to do it. Turns out that same BOSC that established the absolutely essential step in the elections process sent a letter to those clerks telling them it was a lot of work to verify those old signatures, so they didn't have to do what MILegalize asks. The clerks said, sounds good. We won't do it.
Therein lies the basis for the lawsuit filed by marijuana legalization advocates- the requirements established by the state government are impossible to achieve. With a November vote looming ever closer, MILegalize sued the elections officials, the Secretary of State, the BOSC and others in the Court of Claims to bypass the impossible step or to establish a procedure that humans can actually do.
The Court of Claims took more than two months to answer. In their decision, filed yesterday, the Court claims they are not supervisory over the Board of State Canvassers, that they may recognize bad actions in state actors but does not have the authority to force anyone to do anything. The Court, which is the venue established by the Snyder Administration to air complaints against the Michigan state government, will not get involved- primarily because of Supreme Court decisions from the past which the Court says bind their actions in these circumstance.
Hello, Supreme Court!
The Michigan Attorney General defended the Secretary of State and others named in the MILegalize lawsuit. The Court of Claims seems to have ignored their arguments, even though the decision favored those defendants. His Office will once again be defending those government employees against the Writ of Mandamus and other filings in court. The AG has his own elections issue, too, and he just appealed to the same Supreme Court to raise a different elections issue which could affect the November general elections- straight-party voting.
A Federal court decided that the law banning single-party voting on the ballot, which favors Republicans and was passed by Michigan's legislature, violates the U.S. Constitution. Michigan's AG plays party politics like others play euchre, so he's appealed to Michigan courts for a reversal of the decision. Much like MILegalize, lower courts have rejected the AG's claim, which has landed him in the last place he can appeal for relief. Unlike the AG's claim, MILegalize has the support of one-third of a million people who signed the petition forms, and marijuana legalization in general has the overall support of more than half of all Michigan voters, as polls recently revealed.
If other courts refuse to take a stand on the broken wheels of government, the Michigan Supreme Court mustact- and decisively.
Both the AG's claim and the MILegalize suit, which is expected to be filed today, need quick decisions from the Justices as the printing deadline for November ballots is less than a month away. Although past case law shows that the Supreme Court could order the Secretary of State to delay printing ballots, or to re-print ballots, it's not a decision the MILegalize Board wants to rely upon- a quick decision would be advantageous for the campaign and for the people of the Great Lakes State.