Michigan Board of Canvassers split on ballot petition putting abortion rights in front of voters: What's next?

Posted at 5:34 PM, Sep 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-01 19:01:50-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Abortion access in Michigan now hangs in the balance and in the courts following that deadlock vote by the Board of Canvassers on Wednesday.

This isn’t the first or second consequential deadlocked vote by the board, you may remember back in May when five GOP candidates for Governor were left off the ballot.

That was after a vote by the Michigan Board of Canvassers. That decision was appealed. Now a similar path will determine whether Michigan voters get to vote on abortion rights; deadlocked.

The Board of Canvassers split on accepting the ballot petition to put abortion rights in Michigan in front of its voters.

It will now go to the courts. The issue: the petition signed by more than 700,000 voters had a formatting error. No space between words.

“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 Republican board member Tony Daunt on Wednesday.

Daunt was one of two Republicans on the board who voted against the state’s elections director’s recommendation to allow the measure to go to voters. Once filed, the appeal will be in front of the Michigan Supreme Court where it has two options: uphold what the board did yesterday and keep abortion choice off the ballot, or overturn.

“If they order the board to put it on the ballot, the board will then have to meet after that order and pass the motion to put it on the ballot," said Attorney Mark Brewer.

Attorney Mark Brewer was involved with the challenge to fraudulent signatures submitted by GOP candidates that also deadlocked the board of canvassers. He sees the appeal to this vote, going differently, questioning the board’s reach.

“They have no authority over the wording or the spacing of the actual proposal. The only thing they have authority over is the form of the petition which they approved months ago,” said Brewer. “The words are all there. There are no typos. People can read it. It’s a matter of spacing and that’s the function of a printer frankly as to how much spacing is between the words. We actually have constitutional amendments that have typos in them.”

Separately - the sheer amount of signatures submitted may factor into the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision. “The courts are very sensitive to matters of democracy. Three-quarters of a million Michigan voters exercised their right and put this on the ballot, and their wishes should be honored.”

Brewer says historically - the board does vote unanimously on many issues - notably. Certifying elections like in 2020. Now the abortion question wasn’t the only deadlocked vote by the board yesterday. Another measure that, as of now, will not be on the ballot, is a promote the vote proposal. That appeal was filed just hours ago.

The voting access measure would allow 9 days of early, in-person voting, ballots from the military and people overseas to be counted if received by election day and voters could fill out one absentee ballot application for all elections.       

Opponents said this would have changed too much of the Michigan constitution and allowed people convicted of murder, rape, or armed robbery to vote, including while in prison.

So, this, along with abortion choice being on the ballot will all come down to how the Michigan Supreme Court decides if they decide to take on both measures, as is widely expected by experts. and time is ticking for both decisions. There is a deadline of September 9th, 2022.

That is when ballot language needs to be finalized to get those ballots out to voters in time.