Whether Michigan voters will have a say on the state’s emergency manager law may end up before the state Supreme Court, legal experts and political observers say.
On Thursday, the Board of State Canvassers voted 2-2 on whether to approve the petition that would put repeal of the emergency manager act on the ballot in November. At issue was whether part of the petition was in the correct legal print size under state election law. The deadlock vote means the petition was not approved and will not get on the ballot.
Supporters of the proposal are expected to file an appeal to the state Court of Appeals. But few think the legal action will stop there.
“It could go to the Supreme Court,” said Rich Studley, president and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. “There is a lot at stake for either side.”
Eric Doster, an election law expert and general counsel for the state GOP, said he expects whatever the decision the Court of Appeals makes will be appealed to the highest court.
“Whoever loses is going to appeal to the Supreme Court. Will it get to them on appeal? Absolutely 100 percent,” Doster said. “My gut instinct is that they will hear it.”
Patrick Wright, senior legal counsel for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said he expects the issue to be resolved in time for the November election. He said the state Supreme Court can expedite the case because of the timeliness of the election.
“This will work itself out fairly quickly legally,” Wright said.
The legal dispute revolves around the language of the state law. One section states that the petition “shall be” a certain size. Another section of the election law states that type size of the petitions shall be “substantially as provided.”
The question revolves around just how close “substantially” has to be to get the petition approved.
The AP reported that Bob LaBrant of Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility said the header on the petitions was 10- and 12-point rather than the required 14-point size.
The group Stand Up For Democracy submitted 225,885 signatures to get the emergency manager act on the ballot, according to the Associated Press. Studley said the signatures were not in question.
An email seeking comment from Stand Up For Democracy was not returned.