GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A ballot proposal that would enshrine reproductive freedoms, including the right to abortions, in the Michigan Constitution is being challenged, with opponents arguing it includes “extended passages of incomprehensible argle-bargle.”
Organizers for Reproductive Freedom for All have submitted 753,759 signatures to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office. If the state Bureau of Elections confirms at least 425,059 are valid, the proposal would appear on the ballot this November.
In a challenge filed in court on Thursday, the group said argued the “removed spaces … eliminated dozens of words previously set forth in the text and replaced them with a hodgepodge of nonsensical gibberish.”
Attorneys for the group argue that the spaces allegedly removed resulted in “the following nonsensical collection of letters” that the petition is aiming to add into the state constitution, including “DECISIONSABOUTALLMATTERSRELATINGTOPREGNANCY” and “INCLUDINGBUTNOTLIMITEDTOMISCARRIAGE.”
The challenge later describes them as “nonsense; letters run together in meaningless fashion, signifying nothing.”
“One might just as sensibly attach a signature sheet to the alphabet strip that graces the wall of every kindergarten, for the 26 letters on that cardboard universe collectively contain every conceivable word that could be used to amend the constitution,” it argued.
The document argues that the language cannot be included in the constitution if it does not include real words.
“The Petition cannot add to the Michigan Constitution a nonsensical collection of letters which are not words that can be found in any dictionary, are not capable of having any meaning, and differ from the Petition approved by this Board,” the challenge argues.
It argued that there is no way to fix the alleged error now, except with a new proposal.
Genevieve Marnon is the legislative director for Right to Life of Michigan, which is part of the Citizens to Support MI Woman and Children coalition. She said there is no ‘cure’ for the issue.
“This is a pretty egregious situation that can’t be cured legally or legislatively,” Marnon said. “They have no choice but to throw it away because these aren’t real English words.”
She explained that Right to Life of Michigan has had petition sheets thrown out because one word was missing due to the way the paper had been folded.
“We’ve done more petitions initiatives than any other single organization in the state’s history, so we know a thing or two about petitions,” Marnon said.
A spokesperson for Michigan Reproductive Freedom For All in a statement said it is confident they have met the requirements.
“We are confident that we’re in compliance with all legal requirements for ballot proposals. In fact, hundreds of thousands of Michiganders have spoken: more than 730,000 registered voters – a record number – have read, understood, and signed the petition in support of reproductive freedom for all,” Michigan Reproductive Freedom For All spokesperson Darci McConnell said in a statement.
Richard Primus, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Michigan Law School, said he believes the amendment’s language could be cleaned up and that typographical problems wouldn’t cause legal issues.
“There’s no reason to think that anyone didn’t understand what the petition was saying,” Primus said. “There have been typographical problems with things drafted for constitutions as long as there have been constitutions in the United States.”
The Board of Canvassers is scheduled to consider the petition at its meeting on Aug. 31. Marnon said if the board deadlocks, the issue would head to the courts. The board has two Democrats and two Republicans.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.