On Thursday, a lawsuit was filed in United States District Court seeking an injunction to prevent the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) from being placed on the November ballot. The lawsuit, filed by Operation King’s Dream/BAMN, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, the Macomb County NAACP, and numerous African-American and Latino individuals, charges that the MCRI’s financial backer Ward Connerly, the MCRI’s Executive Director Jennifer Gratz, the MCRI, the Michigan Secretary of State, and the State Board of Canvassers violated the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 during the collection of petition signatures and in making the decision to place the MCRI on the ballot. In addition, two of Detroit’s labor unions—AFSCME Local 207 and Local 312—signed on to the lawsuit due to the large number of members who believed they were signing a petition in support of affirmative action.
The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) would ban affirmative action programs in the state of Michigan and has consequently drawn considerable opposition from both regular citizens and organizations such as By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) and One United Michigan. The lawsuit filed on Thursday was a product of organizing done by BAMN who actively worked to prevent the MCRI from being placed on the November ballot. Indeed, it was BAMN’s organizing efforts that led to hearings by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission investigating the question of voter fraud in the campaign to gather the necessary signatures to place the MCRI on the ballot. The Civil Rights Commission gathered over a thousand pages of testimony outlining “systemic” fraud in the campaign to place the MCRI on the ballot while issuing a report recommending that the state of Michigan remove the MCRI from the November 2006 ballot (testimony was collected in Grand Rapids). The findings of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission are the basis of the lawsuit, with national spokesperson for Operation King’s Dream stating that “After the Civil Rights Commission’s report, no one can pretend that they do not know the massive nature of the fraud that the MCRI has perpetrated.” The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 125,000 African-Americans who were fraudulently convinced to sign a petition that Attorney George B. Washington told the media gets to the question of “how do they get 125,000 black people to sign a petition so their kids can’t go to college and the answer is obvious,” with the lawsuit and Washington concluding that the signatures were gathered through fraudulent means.
The text of the case filed last Thursday specifically charge that Connerly, Gratz, and the MCRI violated Section 2 of the Civil Rights Act in their systemic and racially-targeted fraud used to obtain ballot access for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. The filing goes on to state that the Secretary of State and members of Michigan’s Board of Canvassers have violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in supporting the MCRI’s inclusion on the November ballot without an investigation. The plaintiffs explain that they believe a filing in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan is appropriate as a substantial number of those affected and targeted by the fraud live within the district. In the sub-section “Statement of Facts,” attorneys filing the lawsuit further argue that campaigners for the MCRI purposely concealed its intent in their petition language and actively misrepresented the MCRI to black voters as being a constitutional amendment in support of affirmative action rather than one that would ban it.
A decision in the case will be made before September 1st when ballots are printed for distribution overseas, with the lawsuit seeking to have a decision on the expedite the process of deciding the case.