Rewriting a State Constitution for Partisan Advantage:

When I first heard about the ballot initiative sponsored by Reform Michigan Government Now, I assumed it was just an aggressive effort to make several progressive state constitutional reforms in one fell swoop. Then I looked into it a little more — largely because I was curious about the proposed revisions to the composition of the state judiciary — and was a bit taken aback. Among other things the plan would eliminate two seats on the State Supreme Court and several more on the state Courts of Appeals, but increase the number of state trial judges. Each of these reforms would operate so as to increase the proportion of Democrat-appointed judges on the bench, which is, to the least, a bit curious. Then a strategy document prepared for initiative proponents was discovered, and it all fit into place. The ballot initiative is, at heart, a stealth effort to reform the Michigan state constitution, and shift control of the state courts, for partisan advantage. I discuss the plan in more detail in this NRO column.

There's one interesting development I do not discuss in the column. Initiative opponents are mounting a legal challenge to keep the initiative off the ballot. Among other things, they argue that there is no way to accurately summarize the 19,500-word initiative in 100 words, as required by state law. Initiative proponents defend their efforts, arguing among other things, that state judges should not hear the case because they have a "conflict of interest" due to the fact that some state judges would lose their positions inf the measure passes. What an ingenious argument to evade judicial review!

[Typos fixed — ah the dangers of blogging in an airport.]

Michigan Appeals Court Voids "Reform" Initiative:

A state appellate court voted unanimously to remove a sweeping and controversial government reform initiative from the ballot, the Detroit News reports.

The ballot proposal, backed by Michigan Democrats and called Reform Michigan Government Now!, includes so many provisions that it is a "general revision" of the state constitution, which only a constitutional convention can accomplish, the court ruled in an opinion issued shortly before 6 p.m.

"Therefore, the constitutional power of a (citizen-led) initiative does not extend to this proposal," said the order signed by Judges Bill Schuette, William Whitbeck and Patrick Meter. "Consequently the initiative petition does not meet the constitutional prerequisites for acceptance."

The court ordered Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and the Board of State Canvassers not to place the measure on the ballot.

The initiative, pushed by a group called "Reform Michigan Government Now," was pitched as series of good-government reforms to shrink and streamline the state government. In reality, the ballot initiative was cleverly designed to shift partisan control of all three branches of Michigan's government, as I discussed here and here.

An appeal of this decision to the state Supreme Court is near certain, as will be motions seeking recusal of the two Supreme Court justices who would lose their seats. I don't know enough about Michigan law to predict an outcome, but it seems clear to me the ballot initiative is an exceedingly cyncial effort to steal a state government, and a bad idea.

UPDATE: The court opinion is available here.

Michigan Supreme Court Keeps "Reform" Initiative Off Ballot:

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled 6-1 yesterday that the "Reform Michigan Government Now" initiative is ineligible to be on the ballot. According to the Court's majority, the initiative would make too many changes to the state constitution to be placed on the ballot as a single initiative. The Detroit News reports on the decision here.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Michigan Supreme Court Keeps "Reform" Initiative Off Ballot:
  2. Michigan Appeals Court Voids "Reform" Initiative:
  3. Rewriting a State Constitution for Partisan Advantage: