Citizenship checkbox off of ballot applications

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has decided to remove the controversial citizenship verification checkbox from ballot applications for next month’s election. [The Detroit News].

The state’s chief elections officer appeared in U.S. District Court in Detroit in a hearing over whether check-off boxes that ask state voters to confirm their U.S. citizenship status on ballot applications should be allowed in November.

The ACLU of Michigan, SEIU, the Ingham County clerk and others claim Johnson’s citizenship question caused widespread voter confusion in the August primary after Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed legislation in July that would have made inclusion of the question state law.

After the voting rights coalition sued Johnson on Sept. 17 over unequal enforcement of the citizenship question in the August primary, Johnson’s office issued a “News You Can Use” memo to election clerks across the state on Sept. 25 ordering the removal of the question from forms for the presidential contest.

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MSC schedules quickie argument for petition font case

The Michigan Supreme Court granted leave to hear arguments in Stand Up For Democracy v. Secretary of State, et al., also known as the petition font case.

Last month, the Court of Appeals ruled that the signatures collected by the plaintiff could be accepted despite a minor imperfection in the font size of the petition, allowing the emergency manager law to be put to public vote in November. In that decision, the panel criticized the decision on which it based its decision, Bloomfield Charter Twp. v. Oakland County Clerk, asking for a special panel to overturn Bloomfield. The court declined to hold the special panel, necessitating the motion for leave to the Supreme Court.

The court has scheduled an expedited hearing for July 25, 2012.

In the leave order, Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. asked the parties to address definitions of “point” and “type” as they were understood in 1954 and 1965, when the Legislature passed and amended the petition requirement  statutes and whether those definitions should control the issue over how the terms were understood when the statutes were amended again in 1993 and 1998. (The terms apparently weren’t altered or redefined in the later amendments.)

Justice Stephen Markman asked the parties to address how the “point” and “type” should be measured (by size of the printer’s block or the actual printed character) and related issues.

In their opinions

“[I]f there ever was an area in which … disinfectant is the most needed, it is in the conducting of elections.”

Court of Appeals Judge William C. Whitbeck, writing for the majority in Practical Political Consulting v. Land.

“[M]any voters may wish to avoid the perceived annoyance and hassle of receiving large amounts of junk mail and solicitations that would result from the disclosure of their particular political convictions.”

Court of Appeals Judge Kirsten Frank Kelly, dissenting.

Whitbeck and Kelly were discussing the competing rationales for and against Freedom of Information Act disclosure of voters’ names, addresses and the political parties’ ballot the voters requested in the 2008 presidential primary.

Joined by Judge Stephen L. Borrello, Whitbeck prevailed on his view that disclosure was necessary to make sure that election officials had complied with a now-unconstitutional statute.

The law required the Secretary of State and other election officials to collect voter information in the 2008 primary and supply it exclusively to the state’s two major political parties.

A political consulting company made a FOIA request for the same information and prevailed in last week’s split-panel decision.

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“[A] defendant’s perjury at trial is not exceptional. If it were, ‘a departure might be warranted every time a defendant testified and was found guilty.'”

Court of Appeals Judges Joel P. Hoekstra, Cynthia Diana Stephens and Michael J. Kelly, in the unpublished per curiam decision of People v. Baker, quoting People v. Kahley, 277 Mich. App. 182 (2007).

The panel explained that a defendant’s admitted perjury is not reason enough to exceed the sentencing guidelines.

However, in this case, the trial court found that the defendant was a pedophile. The Baker panel said that was a great reason to ignore the guideline’s 9- to 15-year recommendation instead impose a 25- to 75-year sentence.