Turnout at Stake in Michigan Abortion Case: Ballots & Boundaries

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A key ballot-certification deadline is coming up on Friday, so time is short for the Michigan Supreme Court to decide the fate of a typo-marred abortion initiative.

The proposed amendment would enshrine a right to abortion and contraception into the state constitution. Proponents are urging the Michigan Supreme Court to compel the petition’s addition to the November statewide ballot. That would reversing the Board of State Canvassers, which deadlocked after its Republican members voted against moving forward because printing errors ran some words together on a petition form signed by more than 750,000 Michiganders.

“Where abortion is on the ballot it’s a huge driver of turnout,” said Jeff Timmer, a former Michigan GOP official and former member of the Board of State Canvassers. “It can definitely add people that would otherwise not be voting in a midterm election, disproportionately aiding Michigan Democrats with younger voters, and the increase in registration of women.”

That’s what happened in Kansas last month. The state experienced record turnout for a primary as voters rejected an anti-abortion ballot measure roughly 59%-41%.

Michigan’s high court will have to decide if the typos boiled down to either inconsequential missing spaces or unreadable argle-bargle (yes, that’s a thing).

Among the candidates in close races who’d arguably get a boost from extra turnout: US Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D) and Dan Kildee (D). And the campaign of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) is highlighting her pro-abortion rights stance and challenger Tudor Dixon’s (R) position that abortion bans shouldn’t exempt cases of rape or incest.

Republican operatives “utilized abortion as a motivational tool for the evangelical vote for 40 years,” Timmer said. “Now it’s an even bigger vote for Democrats.” —Alex Ebert

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MICHIGAN: AND THAT’S NOT ALL
The fate of another potential ballot measure on voting policy also rests in the hands of the Michigan justices.

Like with the abortion initiative, a 2-2 tie by the Board of State Canvassers prevents certification even though backers gathered sufficient signatures to let voters decide whether to:

  • Force state officials to accept election results, precluding the meddling with presidential vote outcomes;
  • Require state-paid absentee ballot mailings and mandatory drop boxes;
  • Bar voter photo-ID requirements; and
  • Prohibit post-election audits by anyone other than election officials.

The goal of the effort is to foreclose GOP efforts to tighten state voting laws using a unique Michigan process that can make a governor’s position—and veto pen—irrelevant. The legal battle focuses on whether the ballot petition lacked language notifying voters what state constitutional provisions would be altered or eliminated by the proposed amendment. — Alex Ebert

NEBRASKA: REJECTED
The right to place initiatives on state ballots isn’t a “fundamental” right guaranteed by the US Constitution, a split US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit said as backers of a statewide vote on legalizing cannabis lost their case in Nebraska.

Crista Eggers and Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana challenged a requirement to gather signatures from at least 5% of the registered voters in each of two-fifths of the state’s counties. They unsuccessfully argued that voters in less populous counties could veto ballot initiatives supported by voters in areas with greater populations. — Mary Anne Pazanowski

Razor’s Edge Races

Another in a series spotlighting close congressional contests after redistricting changes.
Today: Oregon’s 5th District
Where Is It? The district runs southward and eastward from southern Portland to take in most of Clackamas County, part of Marion County, most of Linn and Deschutes counties.
Who Drew It? The Democratic-controlled legislature and Democratic Gov. Kate Brown enacted the map in September 2021.
2020 Presidential Vote: Joe Biden 53%, Donald Trump 44%
Demographics: White 79%, Hispanic 10%, Asian 3%, Black 1%
Cook Political Report Rating: Toss Up

Nominees: Jamie McLeod-Skinner (D), Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R)
What To Watch: Oregon was one of the few states where Democrats fully controlled the redistricting process. The changes the Legislature made to the 5th District may backfire on their party Nov. 8. Seven-term Rep. Kurt Schrader, a member of the moderate “Blue Dog” bloc of Democrats who prioritize fiscal restraint, was ousted in the primary by McLeod-Skinner, a progressive lawyer who dominated Schrader in the Bend region. Redistricting slightly reduced the district’s Democratic political performance: Biden would have carried the revised 5th by 8.8 percentage points in the 2020 election, down from 9.5 points previously. Chavez-DeRemer is a former mayor of Happy Valley, a small city in northwestern Clackamas County.
Next edition: New Mexico’s 2nd. — Greg Giroux

Election Law

PENNSYLVANIA: BALLOT CURING
The Republican National Committee wants a Pennsylvania state court to block counties from implementing their own ballot curing procedures.

County boards that go beyond verifying a voter’s identification create an “unequal playing field” and have “usurped the exclusive legislative authority of the General Assembly,” according to the lawsuit.

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) vetoed a 2021 bill (H.B. 1300) that included statewide cure procedures, saying the legislation would have created barriers to voting. —Jennifer Kay

ARIZONA: AUDIT RECORDS

The Arizona state Senate doesn’t have to turn over every record related to the review of the 2020 election completed by its contractor Cyber Ninjas.

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled that legislative privilege shields some documents from disclosure, while others are considered public records. Figuring out which have to be released is the job of the trial court, which will scrutinize a Senate privilege log, The Arizona Supreme Court ruled the log must be detailed enough for the court to tell the difference between privileged and non-privileged communications.

Groups including American Oversight sought access to lawmaker communications about the ballot recount. —Brenna Goth

2020 Reverberations

Bloomberg has identified 254 Republicans who’ve either said the 2020 election was stolen or cast doubt on its legitimacy. That includes 185 current office-holders—governors, secretaries of state, attorneys general or US Senate and House members—and 69 additional nominees.

Candidates who insist that Donald Trump was robbed of victory in 2020 are the GOP gubernatorial nominees in Arizona, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin; secretary of state nominees in Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming. READ MORE from Ryan Teague Beckwith and EXPLORE THE LIST.

Caught Our Eye

  • How conspiracy theorists enlisted a county clerk to find evidence that the 2020 vote was rigged.New Yorker
  • One state’s price tag for private attorneys and redistricting experts. — Spotlight PA
  • Ballot issue ad: a vote to legalize cannabis in Arkansas is a “vote to support our police.” — Marijuana Moment

Resources

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To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Ebert in Madison, Wisconsin at aebert@bloomberglaw.com; Greg Giroux in Washington at ggiroux@bgov.com; Jennifer Kay in Miami at jkay@bloomberglaw.com; Brenna Goth in Phoenix at bgoth@bloomberglaw.com; Mary Anne Pazanowski in Washington at mpazanowski@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloombergindustry.com

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