Two-Thirds Minority-Rule Petitions Illegal
Petitions Hid Critical Details from Voters
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Aug. 22, 2012
CONTACT: Roger Martin, email@example.com
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LANSING, Mich. — A radical and controversial constitutional amendment to create minority rule in the state Legislature on tax issues fails to qualify for the Nov. 6 general election ballot because its backers broke state election laws and violated the constitution, Defend Michigan Democracy said today.
The proposal is ineligible because supporters hid vital, legally-required details of the amendment from the Michigan voters who signed petitions to put it on the ballot. By law, petitions to amend the state constitution must publish all sections of the constitution that would be altered, amended or abrogated. None of the sections of the constitution were published on the petitions used by backers of the amendment, who paid more than $2 million for signatures to put this issue before Michigan voters.
“The proposal fails to comply with constitutional and legislatives mandates for qualification for ballot status,” said Michigan attorney John Pirich, an expert in election law at the Honigman firm. “Michigan law requires all petitions to amend the state constitution to list each section of the constitution that would be altered, amended or abrogated by the proposal. The petitions used by the two-thirds movement failed to list multiple sections of the constitution that would be altered or abrogated. They failed to meet these simple and straightforward requirements and through their own missteps, ballot certification cannot be achieved.”
Pirich said state law requires petitions to disclose all sections of the constitution that would be affected by a proposed amendment so Michigan voters can understand precisely what they are signing.
Pirich today filed a formal challenge with the Michigan Secretary of State asking state elections officials to find that the petitions are deficient and do not qualify for the ballot. The challenge was filed on behalf of Defend Michigan Democracy, a coalition formed to defend Michigan’s Constitution and the principle of majority rule. The challenge details five different sections (articles 1, 2, 3, 6 and 26) of Article 9 of the Michigan Constitution that are amended, abrogated or altered by the proposed minority-rule amendment. None of the sections were published on the petitions used by supporters of the amendment to buy the signatures of Michigan voters. The Board of State Canvassers, a four-member panel that determines if ballot proposal campaigns followed state election laws, is expected to consider the challenge at a public meeting on Aug. 27 in Lansing.
Campaign finance reports show the petitions circulated across Michigan for the minority-rule proposal were funded entirely by corporations owned by Michigan billionaire Matty Moroun at a cost of about $2 million. Moroun-owned corporations have also spent an estimated $10 million opposing Gov. Rick Snyder, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Detroit Regional Chamber, Business Leaders for Michigan, organized labor and others seeking to improve Michigan’s economy by building a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor.
Moroun and his supporters misleadingly call the two-thirds proposal the “supermajority amendment.” In reality, it is a “super-minority” proposal because it would give a small handful of state legislators and their special interest backers the power to stop all state tax reforms. For example, under the measure, just 13 members of the Michigan Senate would gain the power to overrule the votes of all 110 members of the state House and the other 25 members of the Senate.
Simple-majority democracy on tax policies has been in Michigan’s constitution for 175 years, ever since Michigan became a state. This scheme gives super powers to a super minority of state legislators who could block the will of the majority on all major tax votes in the future. That destroys democracy as we know it in Michigan and is bad policy because it would create even more gridlock in a Michigan Legislature that already far too often has a hard time agreeing on how to solve problems.
Only seven states require that taxes be increased by 2/3-votes of both of their legislative chambers, giving extraordinary powers to a minority of lawmakers. There is ample evidence super minority states are poorer, have higher local taxes, higher unemployment, and gridlock in their legislatures.
- Not one of these seven super minority states is in the top 10 in per capita income. If this was the path to prosperity, at least one of these states would be in the top 10.
- Not one is in the top 10 in employment. One of the states (Nevada) has the nation’s highest unemployment rate.
- Another (Mississippi) is the nation’s poorest state in terms of per capita income.
- One of the states (California) failed to meet its constitutional deadline for balancing the state budget 16 out of 20 years because of legislative gridlock.
Members of Defend Michigan Democracy include the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, Michigan League for Human Services, Presidents Council State Universities of Michigan, AARP Michigan, Michigan Townships Association, Michigan Municipal League, and more. For more information visit www.DefendMIDemocracy.com.
Last week, Business Leaders for Michigan, one of the state’s leading pro-business organizations, announced its opposition to the super-minority proposal. Gov. Snyder has also expressed opposition.
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