HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveNewslettersVolume 18Issue 26Michigan Supreme Court Overturns Ballot Initiative Ruling

Today, August 24, 2012, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed a Court of Appeals decision that invalidated a ballot proposal that seeks to authorize an additional eight commercial casinos throughout the state. The decision vacated a writ of mandamus the Michigan Court of Appeals had issued to the Secretary of State for the removal of the casino initiative from the ballot.  As a result, the initiative now moves to the State Board of Canvassers for consideration for possible inclusion on the November ballot. The court’s order clarifies the technical requirements that apply to constitutional referendums, an issue of first impression for the court.

Prior Court of Appeals Ruling

The Court of Appeals opinion cited Article 4, Section 25 of the Michigan Constitution which states that a voter-initiated law may not be revised, altered, or amended without a republishing of the affected statutory language.  The Appeals Court had determined that the drafted constitutional amendment failed to properly educate voters as to what specific laws will be altered by the amendment because it did not state specific provisions of the statute and convey the revisions in their entirety. 

Supreme Court Ruling

The Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeals should have reviewed the proposal under Article 12, Section 2 of the Michigan Constitution, which governs the voter approval process for constitutional amendments, not Article 4, Section 25, which the Supreme Court stated applies to amendments of statutes. The ruling was unanimous, though Justice Stephen J. Markman filed a “concurring” opinion noting that voters should be provided at least some notice that voter-initiated law would be amended by the proposal, but also noted that the decision provides “clarity as to what the constitution requires of voter-initiated constitutional amendments.”

The Board of State Canvassers must certify the ballots for the November election by September 7, 2012 and has a meeting scheduled for Monday, August 27, 2012.

 

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