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A Better Partnership
August 27, 2012

Michigan Supreme Court holds that proposals to amend the Michigan Constitution need only comply with Article 12, Section 2

In Protect Mi Constitution v. Secretary of State, No. 145698, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed the Michigan Court of Appeals and vacated that court's order of mandamus in lieu of granting leave to appeal. The Court held that a ballot proposal that seeks voter approval of a constitutional amendment is governed by Article 12, Section 2 of the Michigan Constitution, not Article 4, Section 25. The Court held that the latter applies to amendments of laws, not amendments to the Michigan Constitution. The Court further held that there was no showing of a failure to comply with Article 12, Section 2, and it accordingly reversed the Court of Appeals, which had entered an order of mandamus after applying Article 4, Section 25.

In Protect MI Constitution v. Secretary of State, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that a ballot proposal petition failed to comply with Michigan's constitutional requirements for altering or amending a law, and the Secretary therefore had 'a clear legal duty to reject the petition.' Article 4, Section 25 of the Michigan Constitution requires certain petitions to 'publish at length' the sections of the law that the proposal would alter. The petition at issue in the case only described the amendments to the Michigan Constitution that it proposed to enact; it failed to set forth the language of the existing Gaming Act that would be altered by the proposal. The petition did not even reference the Gaming Act. The Court of Appeals held that the proposal would amend a law, so it had to comply with the constitutional requirements for amending a law. Because the proposal failed to complay with those requirements, the Court of Appeals held that it was ineligible for placement on the ballot. The court then issued an order directing the Secretary of State to reject the petition and to disallow the proposal on the ballot.

The Michigan Supreme Court reversed. It held that a ballot petition proposal that seeks to amend the Michigan Constitution is governed only by Article 12, Section 2. It is not governed by Article 4, Section 25, which only governs amendments to laws. Because there was no showing that the petition proposal had failed to comply with Article 12, Section 2, the Court reversed and dismissed the plaintiffs' complaint for mandamus.

In his concurrence, Justice Markman wrote separately to note that he would hold that petition proposals to amened the Michigan Constitution must also comply with Article 2, Section 9 and Article 4, Section 25, particularly here, where the intended purpose of the proposal is to alter the Gaming Act. He further emphasized that the greatest virtue of the Court's decision was that it provided clarity as to what is required of a voter-initiated constitutional amendment.

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