An amendment to protect abortion access in Michigan will face the state’s voters in November after the state Supreme Court ordered the Board of State Canvassers to approve the proposed amendment for the ballot.
The amendment’s ballot petition garnered more than 750,000 signatures, but opponents say they found defects in the amendment’s text that made portions of the bill unreadable. The four-person Michigan Board of State Canvassers, tasked with certifying election petitions, came to a split decision last week, meaning the proposed amendment was stopped in its tracks.
“You would not sign a mortgage that had this kind of mistake in it. You would not turn in a term paper with this kind of mistake in it,” said Tony Daunt, one of the two Republicans on the board to vote against approving the ballot petition.
Bridge Michigan reporter Jonathan Oosting shared side-by-side images of one portion of text after a revised edition of the amendment moved words closer together in some sections.
Image 1: Michigan abortion rights petition drive given *conditional* format approval by Board of State Canvassers in March
Image 2: The revised and circulated version, which is now being challenged because of spacing issues that appeared to merge several words together. pic.twitter.com/fjsZsbNjOE
— Jonathan Oosting (@jonathanoosting) August 18, 2022
The state’s majority-Republican Supreme Court voted 5-2 to put the pro-abortion amendment on the ballot, despite the challenges arguing that its spacing makes the text unreadable.
“In this case, the meaning of the words has not changed by the alleged insufficient spacing between them,” the court wrote, according to CNN. “Assuming that the challengers’ objection to the spacing represents a challenge to the ‘form’ of the petition that the Board properly considered, the petition has fulfilled all statutory form requirements, and the Board thus has a clear legal duty to certify the petition.”
Justice David Viviano, one of the dissenting justices, wrote that the “failure to include spaces” makes the amendment hard to read and comes up short of the “full text” requirement in the Michigan constitution. “[I]t may have the right words in the right order—as the majority here suggests—but the lack of critical word spaces renders the remaining text much more difficult to read and comprehend …” wrote Viviano.
A Michigan abortion ban from 1931 was set to go into effect following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, but the enforcement of that ban has been blocked by a permanent injunction issued by a Michigan Court of Claims judge. Now, Michigan voters will make their voices heard on the issue at the ballot box in November.
The state’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has made abortion rights a centerpiece of her re-election campaign after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling. Whitmer’s Republican opponent Tudor Dixon has come out in support of the 1931 ban on all abortions except when the mother’s life is in danger.