American Renaissance

Blocking the Vote

Defenders of racial preferences twist the law in Michigan.

Ward Connerly, National Review Online, Apr. 7

Whatever we do, we can’t let the people vote.

That seems to be the attitude of the elites in the state of Michigan. They will do anything to prevent the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) — a proposition to end racial preferences in the public arena — from getting on the ballot. My organization, the American Civil Rights Coalition, and I are working with the brave folks in Michigan to help build support for the measure. MCRI is currently gathering signatures; it needs almost 318,000 valid ones to appear on the ballot this November. If it does, it will surely pass. Proponents of the racial-spoils system know this. So they will try every trick, honest or dishonest, to kill MCRI by any means necessary.

I meant that last part literally. Our main opposition is a radical, fringe-leftist outfit called BAMN — “The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigration Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary.” Yes, that should be CDAAIIRFEBAMN, but spelling is not this group’s strong point. (Neither is common sense.) Despite their innocent, student-organization façade, BAMN is actually, according to its own website, an arm of “the Revolutionary Workers League, U.S. sympathizing section of the International Trotskyist Committee.” BAMN’s typical M.O. consists of shouting the loudest and the longest at any public gathering that might include a news camera. They refuse to engage in a give-and-take debate, and only want to harass and intimidate anyone who is not in 100-percent lockstep agreement with them. When they have finally driven away every reasonable person around them with their obnoxious, violence-threatening behavior, they will then cheer they have “won.”

Unfortunately, BAMN is well funded. One can only wonder where they get their money — either from some lefty nonprofit group, like People for the American Way, or from more mainstream labor unions. At first glance, you would think unions have little use for stirring up agitation over racial preferences on college campuses and in businesses. But BAMN’s antics give unions the perfect cover to amp up their organizational efforts in these places. I’ve seen this myself at the University of California, where unions target faculty assistants, nurses, and other university employees to boost their membership numbers. I can’t prove that the unions are behind BAMN, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

BAMN uses this mysterious money to hire lawyers and file nuisance suits. So in a stunning and nonsensical ruling just a few days ago, a circuit-court judge ruled that the Michigan state elections agency that approved the technical aspects of MCRI’s petition — not the actual language, mind you, just minutiae like paper size and point size — should not have done so because MCRI’s language is unconstitutional.

The magnitude of liberal judicial activism displayed by this judge, one Paula J. M. Manderfield, is stunning. First of all, the elections agency that she accused of being in error, the Board of State Canvassers, has never ruled on the constitutionality of any measure ever brought before it. That has never been its mandate. It is not manned or staffed with attorneys, so even if it were to try, no one would have the expertise to do it. Judge Manderfield knows this.

Secondly, the “approval” that the board gave to MCRI before we began our petition drive is non-binding. Nowhere in the law is it required that a ballot initiative’s proponents submit their petition to the board to make sure it complies with the technical requirements of the law — most proponents just do this anyhow, because it’s a lot better to catch stupid mistakes before you’ve gathered 318,000 valid signatures than after. Only when proponents turn in their signatures does the board count them as valid and make a ruling. So even if Judge Manderfield is right that the board erred in approving our petition, we are still free to gather signatures — and fight this mess out in court at the end of the signature-gathering process, as we fully expected to have to do anyway.

But finally, and most egregiously, Judge Manderfield flouts the spirit of the law when she claims that MCRI is in “direct conflict” with the portion of the Michigan Constitution that states, “No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws; nor shall any person be denied the enjoyment of his civil or political rights or be discriminated against in the exercise thereof because of religion, race, color, or national origin.” How could an initiative to ban racial preferences conflict with such noble language, unless one is a devotee of George Orwell?

If Judge Manderfield, the Supreme Court, and other judges could simply read the plain text of the law as written above, or as enshrined in our 14th Amendment, or in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, I wouldn’t need to be fighting for MCRI. The intent behind all of these laws was to end discrimination based on race. But liberal judicial activists have twisted the meaning of these words to now signify that we are practically required to discriminate, by giving racial preferences to some groups over others.

Luckily, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox is appealing Judge Manderfield’s ruling as I write this. Cox is a level-headed, principled steward of the law, and in all likelihood he will get this ridiculous ruling overturned and it will pass as just another episode in a long trend of outrageous judicial activism. But our opponents still struck us a hard blow — Michigan newspapers trumpeted the foolish ruling as page-one news, all but declaring MCRI dead. Support across the state may dim as our volunteers think the issue is over, and we need to fight back twice as hard as before to let them know we are still alive. The support of every person — not just in Michigan, but nationwide — committed to equality under the law is crucial.

If you want to find out more about MCRI or donate funds, visit the website at This campaign holds the promise of having the people of a state that gave us the term “Reagan Democrats” overturning the action of a Supreme Court that told us “diversity” is an acceptable excuse for discrimination — so long as the beneficiaries of that discrimination are of the right color. Now Judge Manderfield is trying to protect that court’s terrible ruling by any means necessary. We don’t intend to let her.

Ward Connerly is founder and chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute. Justin Jones assisted Connerly with this article, while he recovers from surgery.