Abortion rights initiative wants Michigan Supreme Court to decide ballot fate

Will a Michigan proposal to guarantee the right to an abortion make the November ballot? Advocates need the Michigan Supreme Court to decide – and quickly.

Reproductive Freedom for All filed a lawsuit Thursday asking that justices force the Board of State Canvassers to place the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot. Canvassers on Wednesday deadlocked, 2-2, on whether to accept the Bureau of Elections’ recommendation that RFFA qualify.

Bureau staff estimated that RFFA easily got enough signatures, coming in more than 170,000 above the minimum. But signatures weren’t the issue that worried the board’s two Republican canvassers.

Richard Houskamp and Tony Daunt sided with a challenge brought by opposition group Citizens to Support MI Women and Children. It argued that spacing errors in RFFA’s petition language make some sentences look like unreadable “gibberish.”

Catch up: Abortion rights proposal likely headed to court after Michigan canvassers don’t certify

But RFFA lawyers argue in their court complaint that canvassers’ duty was only to the signatures and petition form, not the spacing of words. Lawyers also say the word spaces at issue weren’t eliminated by the layout mistake, just “minimized.”

Elections director Jonathan Brater explained Wednesday that when RFFA’s petition language was approved by canvassers in March, it was ordered to remove a word. In doing so, the spacing of some words changed.

But supporters and Democratic canvasser Mary Ellen Gurewitz argued that people could still read it and understand it enough to protest it.

Lawyers requested the Supreme Court make a decision by next Wednesday, Sept. 7. The deadline for proposals to get on the ballot is Sept. 9.

RFFA, tentatively known as Proposal 3 if it makes the ballot, would make abortion a constitutional right, trumping the 1931 ban (currently paused by a court) that is the default after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

It would also guarantee other reproductive rights like contraception, sterilization and infertility care. Opponents have called it too broad for the state constitution.

Michiganders overwhelmingly support RFFA, according to a poll released Friday by Lansing-based independent pollster EPIC-MRA. It found 67% of likely November voters plan to vote for it, compared to 24% against and 9% undecided.

Prop 2, known currently as Promote the Vote 2022, also appealed Thursday to the Supreme Court after canvassers deadlocked on a challenge related to its wording instead of its signatures.

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