Michigan Supreme Court Puts Abortion Vote Back on The Ballot

Esquire: Politics With Charles P. Pierce
The Logic Behind Dobbs Was Always Crap, and Michigan Is a Case in Point
“Leave it to the states,” they said, disingenuously.

By Charles P. Pierce — SEPT. 9, 2022

Friday’s entry in our new F*ck Around And Find Out archive comes to us from Michigan.

Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack of the Michigan Supreme Court

It seems that over 700,000 Michiganders signed a petition to keep abortion legal in that state. Of course, this is exactly what the Supreme Court suggested should happen when it stripped away that right from American women, which they’d had since 1973. “Leave it to the states,” the anti-choices howled for nearly 50 years.

Of course, once the question was put on the ballot, Republican monkeyshines ensued. From Politico:

The Michigan Supreme Court’s emergency ruling overrides last week’s party-line tie vote by the Board of State Canvassers, which blocked the certification of the proposed constitutional amendment.

The two Republicans on that panel sided with conservative groups that argued spacing and formatting errors on the text canvassers presented to voters rendered the entire effort invalid.

This is the kind of penny-ante ratfcking in which state GOP organizations specialize—and in which they glory, truth be told. Unfortunately for them, however, Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack can see a church by daylight.

Chief Justice Bridget McCormack blasted those officials for that decision, writing in her ruling Thursday:

“Seven hundred fifty three thousand and seven hundred fifty nine Michiganders signed this proposal—more than have ever signed any proposal in Michigan’s history. The challengers have not produced a single signer who claims to have been confused by the limited-spacing sections in the full text portion of the proposal. Yet two members of the Board of State Canvassers would prevent the people of Michigan from voting on the proposal.”

McCormack added that using spacing errors to justify keeping the measure off the ballot is “a game of gotcha gone very bad” and commented: “What a sad marker of the times.”

(Fun fact: Chief Justice McCormack is the sister of actress Mary McCormack, The West Wing’s Kate Harper, who was the Bartlet White House’s resident spook, whose romance with the insufferable Will Bailey was the most implausible thing about that show apart from all the imaginary reasonable Republicans who were forever wandering about.)

Two justices dissented, arguing that the court should have held oral arguments on the case before issuing a ruling and that the claims raised by the challengers are legitimate.

“It may have the right words in the right order,” Justice David Viviano said about the abortion rights petition, “but the lack of critical word spaces renders the remaining text much more difficult to read and comprehend.”

Only a true sap (or possibly someone from the West Wing’s writer’s room) ever believed that American conservatives actually believed that abortion should be “left to the states.” They wanted to eliminate federal protections of that right so that state protections could be more easily demolished.

Witness Michigan, where the state legislature immediately tried to reactivate an anti-choice law from 1931. (Wisconsin had them beat, though; their legislature tried to reimpose an anti-choice statute passed during the presidency of Zachary Taylor.) They are—as we keep reminding folks here in the shebeen—playing for the whole bag of marbles, and they still take their marching orders from Josef Stalin’s command to the Red Army when the Germans invaded: Ni shagu nazad.
Not one step backwards.

Charles P Pierce is the author of four books, most recently Idiot America, and has been a working journalist since 1976. He lives near Boston and has his three children.

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