Dec 08

Socialist Party Files Application for Leave to the Michigan Supreme Court in Ballot Access Lawsuit Against the State

The Socialist Party of Michigan filed an application for leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court last week, in its lawsuit challenging both the constitutional and statutory validity of the Party’s exclusion from the Michigan ballot under Michigan Secretary of State’s present application of the state’s legislatively enacted political party access requirements.

The Party’s case, Socialist Party of Michigan v. Secretary of State (SCt No. 142163; COA No. 299951; TCt No. 10-867-CZ) was initially filed in the 30th Circuit Court of Ingham County on July 21st and assigned to Judge William E. Collette.

Following a claim of laches (an affirmative defense alleging a failure to assert one’s right in a timely manner) by the Secretary of State, in its response to the SPMI’s motion for summary disposition, Judge Collette ordered the case’s dismissal on the ground of laches, in spite of the state’s failure to articulate any form of negligent delay underlying the timing of the SPMI’s filing, or prejudicial injury resulting therefrom, as must be jointly proven with any successful laches defense under present judicial requirements…

Following the circuit court’s ruling, the SPMI filed a motion for reconsideration, highlighting the clear legal error underlying its acceptance of the state’s laches defense as an applicable ground for the case’s dismissal. Upon subsequently receiving no reply from the circuit court by the following week’s motion day, the SPMI filed an emergency appeal to the Court of Appeals on Wednesday September 1st, whereupon it was assigned the appellate panel of judges Stephen L. Borrello, Michael J. Kelly, and Peter D. O’Connel

Due, most ostensibly, to the greatly limited time frame available for the Court of Appeals panel to review the case (requiring a decision in under 48 hours from the time it was filed) however; the appellate panel affirmed the trial court’s ruling in a two page unpublished opinion that once more neglected to directly address the merits of any of the SPMI’s constitutional claims.

While providing no reference whatsoever to the controlling case law concerning the Michigan Constitution’s “Purity of Elections” Clause, on which the SPMI based its principal constitutional argument, the appellate panel provided only brief and general reference to the SPMI’s distinctly presented equal protection arguments. In that portion of the opinion, the appellate panel cited Michigan Supreme Court case of Harvey v. Michigan, 469 Mich 1, (2003), concerning the limited application of a strict, rather than “highly deferential,” standard of judicial scrutiny to equal protection challenges made to laws involving classifications based on “suspect categories” (i.e. ‘protected classes’) as its basis for construing that the SPMI had “not appl[ied] an equal protection framework to [its] analysis of [Michigan’s party ballot access statute] MCL 168.685.”

In overlooking the SPMI’s equal protection claims on that basis, the appellate panel quite evidently failed to observe any of the three references, noted in separate portions of the Harvey Court’s opinion from that cited by the appellate panel, to the long established exception to such a highly deferential review standard to equal protection challenges that exists when such challenges are made to laws which operate to “impinge[] on the exercise of a fundamental right.” Consequently, the appellate panel additionally failed to apply the mandatory balancing tests outlined throughout the many decades of prior U.S. and Michigan Supreme Court decisions that explicitly affirm the proper application of a “fundamental right”-based review standard to equal protection challenges in ballot access cases.

In addition to the appellate panel’s failure to properly review the SPMI’s constitutional claims, the appellate panel further erroneously construed the SPMI’s alleged failure to comply with the requirements of the MCL 168,685 statute, as contended by the state, to have been an “undisputed” point of underlying fact – not withstanding the substantial portions of content dedicated to explicitly disputing this allegation in both the appellate and trial court briefs that the SPMI had submitted. Such an erroneous construction of the facts by the Court of Appeals panel, as to the contested status of this allegation by the state, consequently further precluded the Court from properly construing the legal grounds underlying the SPMI’s statutorily-based claims.

In correspondingly taking note of the Michigan Court of Appeals panel’s strikingly conspicuous failure to even acknowledge, much less assess the merits of, the SPMI’s principal constitutional claims, the recent October 2010 edition of Ballot Access News pointedly observed, within its monthly report on recent ballot access litigation around the U.S .that “the decision is only two pages, and the judges didn’t even seem to understand the issue.”

In reference to the same state constitutional claim that Ballot Access News has chiefly emphasized in its most recent and prior news updates on the case’s proceedings, SPMI State Chairperson Matt Erard further noted that “the SPMI’s present ballot accesses challenge is not one that relies upon persuading the courts to adopt any new construction of the relevant law at hand. The controlling principles that the Michigan courts have already established on directly parallel legal questions apply just as squarely to the grounds on which our lawsuit challenges the validity of Michigan’s current ballot access scheme.”

While challenging the present Michigan statute on multiple different constitutional grounds, the SPMI’s case particularly challenges its validity under the Michigan Constitution’s “Purity of Elections” clause, which the Michigan Supreme Court found to prohibit the state from imposing an inequitably higher standard of voter support on “new” parties seeking to qualify for the ballot than that imposed on automatically returning parties seeking to directly retain their qualification from the preceding election. (Socialist Workers Party v. Secretary of State, 412 Mich. 571 [1982]).

As outlined in the SPMI’s present case, subsequent legislative amendments enacted since the time at which the Court struck down the statute’s contemporaneously prior formulation in the Socialist Workers Party case have operated to, not only reestablish such a disparity, but also further widen the inequitable qualification requirements between “new” and returning parties to a far greater level of severity than that imposed by the previously formulated requirements in place at the time of the Court’s 1982 Socialist Workers Party ruling itself.

As a result of this gradually reestablished disparity, as applied to the forthcoming 2012 general election, a “new” party must now demonstrate support from more than double the number of Michigan voters, by means of valid petition signatures, that a returning party is required to demonstrate, by means of votes cast for any one of its nominated candidates.

Moreover, while at least one “new” party qualified for the ballot in all but one of the 23 general elections held between the 1954 enactment of the present state election code and the close of the 20th Century, not a single new party has successfully qualified for the Michigan ballot in any of the past five state general elections held over the course of the past decade.

While Michigan is joined by no additional state other than Kansas in requiring a higher voter support threshold from “new” parties than returning parties seeking to qualify for its state ballot in each election, the scale of such disparity imposed under the present Michigan ballot access scheme stands nationally unparalleled.

Consequently, the SPMI case aims to highlight the ironic, albeit lamentable, fact that Michigan has now come to combine its impartment of the most drastic level of unfair ballot access advantages to returning parties over new parties, among any state in the nation, with the nation’s most concrete and strictly articulated state constitutional prohibition of such a practice.

In addition to its constitutional arguments presented under the Michigan Constitution’s “Purity of Elections” Clause, and corresponding claims under the 1st and 14th amendments to the federal constitution, the Socialist Party’s present case is additionally challenging its exclusion from the ballot under the facial requirements of the governing statute itself.

In noting that the 2002 amendment to Michigan’s party ballot access statute removed the statute’s prior wording, specifying that a party’s “principle” (i.e. highest vote-receiving) candidate must necessarily be listed in the party column of the political party that his or her candidacy represents, the Socialist Party additionally challenges the Secretary of State’s present conflation of the present statutory requirements with those enacted prior to the 2002 amendment, by asserting within each version of its biennially updated “Political Party status” document that a minor party’s ballot qualification is determined by “the greatest number of votes received by any candidate whose name appeared in the party’s column on the [preceding] general election ballot” [Emphasis added].

In taking further note of the facts that (i) Michigan’s “principal candidates” have received approximately 4.5 and 4.8 times the number of votes required for subsequent party access in the 2008 and 2010 general elections respectively (and likewise respectively received 3.5 and 4.5 times the required number of votes in the 2004 and 2006 general elections before those); (ii) that the Socialist Party was the initial party to nominate its “principal candidates” in the 2008 and 2010 elections – who both accordingly continued to campaign as Socialist Party candidates both before and after receiving the secondary nomination of the Green Party; (iii) that the Socialist Party formally certified its initial nomination of its 2010 principal candidate to the Secretary of State’s office in precise compliance with all of the pertaining statutory requirements; and (iv) that the Secretary of State ignored the provisions of the Michigan election code requiring default placement of dual-party nominated candidates in the column of the party that first certifies their nominations; the SPMI’s Supreme Court application further highlights the fact that “by the terms of the Michigan Election Code, Plaintiff-Appellant SPMI has qualified for the 2010 general election ballot,” and likewise satisfied the statutory requirements for holding ballot qualification in the forthcoming 2012 general election as well.

Correspondingly, the SPMI is personally joined by Co-Plaintiff-Appellant Dwain Reynolds in the suit, whose grounds for challenging the SPMI’s denial of ballot access stem from his status as both an SPMI-supporting voter and as the Party’s “principal candidate” in the last preceding November election to have been held at the time of the case’s initial July 2010 filing.

In light of the case’s explicit satisfaction of all five of the Supreme Court’s officially designated grounds for applying for leave from a Court of Appeals decision, and correspondingly exceptional combination of distinguishingly apposite factors for obtaining Supreme Court appellate review, with respect to the particular parties, issues, and lower appellate court errors involved, Socialist Party members and supporters remain confidently hopeful about the State Supreme Court’s acceptance of the Party’ leave application during the opening months of its forthcoming 2011 session.

“The overarching question now hinging on the Supreme Court is whether the state’s judiciary will operate to equivalently deny the fundamental and legal rights of Socialist voters in the courts as the state’s other two branches of government have long operated to deny them at the ballot box,” Erard added.

The SPMI’s leave application brief submitted to the MI Supreme Court can be read online at: http://spmichigan.org/leaveapp.pdf


Oct 23

VOTE SOCIALIST IN 2010!


Socialist Party of Michigan Candidates Appearing on the Nov. 2nd 2010 Statewide General Election Ballot:

Diana Demers for University of Michigan Board of Regents

(Green Party ballot label*)


James Arnoldi for Wayne State University Board of Governors
(Green Party ballot label*)

SPMI 2010 Statewide Campaign Flyer




Vote YES on Proposal 10-1

The Socialist Party of Michigan encourages all Michigan workers to vote YES on the 2010 General Election Proposal #1 – to convene a constitutional convention for the purpose of drafting a general revision of Michigan’s State Constitution. Correspondingly, we also vehemently demand that the Socialist Party of Michigan be equally accorded the same right and state-recognition as all other Michigan political parties to nominate and certify candidates in the subsequently scheduled partisan election for Convention delegate seats, should this proposal to hold a statewide Constitutional Convention be approved by Michigan voters.

We Socialists, if elected to the delegation charged with re-drafting a new constitution for our state, would seek to establish a process for extending supreme constitutional ratifying authority to a statewide body of community and workplace assemblies, subsequently convened to codify the transfer of power and authority over the affairs of the State of Michigan from the old, nominally “democratic” structures to the new grassroots community and workplace assemblies, and whatever statewide system of legislation and administration they establish.

Central to the tasks of a new Constitutional Convention would also be the adoption of a “Working People’s Bill of Rights,” designed to make clear and concrete the rights of working people in the state to the necessities of life, the means of expression and the power to determine their own futures and those of succeeding generations.

Other central provisions of a new democratic state constitution that Socialists would seek to establish would include:

  • The immediate placement of all major corporations and financial institutions under
    social ownership and worker control.
  • Abolition of the State Senate and expansion of the State House of Representatives into a general state legislature, chosen by proportional representation. All members of the executive cabinet, including directors of state agencies, not directly elected by the people to be chosen from among the elected representatives. All state representatives and executive officers subject to immediate recall at any time. No state representative to make more than the average wage of a skilled worker.
  • Sanctioning of fully empowered neighborhood councils and assemblies to administer areas and
    communities within cities. Citywide, county, regional and statewide gatherings of community assemblies on a periodic basis to exchange ideas, set policy and coordinate activity.
  • Abolition of the right of the state government to stage “takeovers” of community institutions:
    courts; school districts; power and water facilities; public transportation; etc.
  • Implementation of Instant Run-off Voting in all state, county and municipal elections; and
    proportional representation in all legislative bodies. Automatic ballot status for any organization
    that holds a State Convention and elects a State Central Committee.
  • Full freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of personal privacy, due process, and free exercise of religion through the separation of church and state.Full
    equality for all, regardless of race, color or creed, nationality or national origin, gender, sexuality
    or sexual identity, age, ability, political affiliation, religion, or citizenship status, including the
    immediate repeal and reversal of the constitution’s present provisions barring same-sex
    marriage equality and public sector affirmative action.
  • The right to meaningful employment, high quality and comprehensive free health care,
    and free education from cradle to grave for all Michigan residents






Vote NO on Proposal 10-2


The very basis upon which the restrictions presented in this year’s Proposal 2 would require a constitutional amendment for enactment is their direct assault on Michigan voters’ most fundamental democratic rights. In constituting an amendment to the State Constitution that would empower the state to bar the subsequent election of individuals upon whom the state has successfully imposed a ‘criminal’ label, regardless of the voter support they may hold; Proposal 2 essentially asks Michigan voters to approve new conditions for their own potential disenfranchisement.

In further draping itself with thinly veiled allusion to the continuing spectacle of scandals surrounding Detroit’s former Kilpatrick mayoral regime, Proposal 2 has been directly fashioned with the intent of further perpetuating the myth of local responsibility for the devastating decline of Michigan’s largest city, while simultaneously serving to further divert public scrutiny from the ubiquitously entrenched system of corporate bribery and corruption, characterizing all levels of our electoral and legislative processes, while operating behind the contrastingly protecting shield of legal sanction. For all such reasons, Michigan workers should resoundingly vote to reject this cynically reactionary proposal.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

*Due to the refusal of the Michigan Secretary of State’s office to recognize the Socialist Party’s ballot status in Michigan this year, the candidacies of Diana Demers for UM Regent and James Arnoldi for WSU Governor will be listed under the ballot label of the Green Party of Michigan, whose supplementary nomination they both also received.


Oct 22

Socialist Party Opens New State/Local Office in Detroit

The Socialist Party of Michigan and Detroit Socialist Party have jointly established a new office in Detroit to serve as both the state and local office of the two SP branches, respectively. The Party’s new office location is on the ground floor of the recently renovated Northend Studios Building at 2937 E. Grand Boulevard, Detroit, MI 48202. Located approximately three blocks east of Woodward Ave., the nine-story building containing the Party’s new office is particularly distinguished by the full structure-length rainbow mural along the building’s westward-facing side toward Woodward.

In addition to its central location within the state’s largest city, the large open lobby space, adjacent to the Party’s first-floor office suite, provides an excellent location for the Socialist Party to conduct meetings, forums, and film-screenings, as well as a great space to host musical performance benefit shows and other SP-sponsored events. Among other corresponding uses for the space presently being discussed is the possible establishment of a socialist infoshop in the months ahead.

In addition to the regular SP meetings and events now being held at the new office, we’ve also adopted the practice of placing an SP banner at the front entrance during times that the office is open. If you happen to be in the neighborhood and see the SP banner out front, please stop in and say hello!

Jul 28

SPMI Files Ballot Access Legal Challenge and 2010 Candidate Nominations

SOCIALIST PARTY FILES LEGAL CHALLENGE TO MICHIGAN BALLOT ACCESS RULES; CERTIFIES 2010 CANDIDATE NOMINATIONS TO STATE BUREAU OF ELECTIONS

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, July 28th 2010

Contact:
Matt Erard, State Chair, Socialist Party of Michigan
(248) 765-1605
spmi@spmichigan.org
www.spmichigan.org
www.socialistparty-usa.org


LANSING – The Socialist Party of Michigan (SPMI), MI state party affiliate of the Socialist Party USA, filed the State-prescribed candidate nomination and acceptance certificates for seven party candidates for federal and state office on Monday, following its official selection of such candidates at its 2010 state nominating convention held in Ann Arbor last Saturday.

Though decades have passed since the last time the Michigan Secretary of State’s office formally recognized the Socialist Party’s qualification to nominate candidates for any partisan elections in the state , the Party formally filed its nomination certificates with the Secretary of State’s Bureau of Elections office this year in order to concord with a lawsuit the Party filed in the state’s 30th Circuit Court (Ingham County) last Wednesday against Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, in her official capacity; challenging the constitutionality of the present Michigan statute governing political party ballot access (M.C.L. § 168.685) and seeking a court order requiring the Secretary of State’s office to once again provide a properly labeled party column on the Michigan ballot listing the Socialist Party’s nominees. The case, Socialist Party of Michigan, et al. v. Land (#10-867-CZ) is currently pending an August hearing before the court’s chief judge, Hon. William E. Collette.

Having last held Michigan ballot access in 1977, following its subsumptive merger with the then Michigan ballot-qualified “(Socialist) Human Rights Party, “the Party has continued to run candidates in recent general elections, while having to rely on qualifying its candidate slate each election year through various disparately labeled combinations of secondary candidate nominations from the Green or Natural Law parties, independent “no party affiliation” qualifying petitions, and certified write-in status. While prohibiting parties from qualifying at any local or regional level, Michigan is also among a minority of U.S. states which prohibit the candidates of any non-qualified party from listing their party label on the ballot, even when satisfying all the requirements to independently qualify their candidacies.

While challenging the present Michigan statute on multiple different constitutional grounds, the Socialist Party’s case draws particular attention to the Michigan Constitution’s “Purity of Elections” clause, which the Michigan Supreme Court found to prohibit the state from imposing a higher standard of voter support on “new” parties seeking to qualify for the ballot than returning parties seeking to automatically return to the ballot (Socialist Workers Party v. Secretary of State, 412 Mich. 571 [1982]). The Party notes that since the time of that case, the legislature has twice amended the law to both drastically raise the voter support threshold for “new” parties to qualify, and greatly decrease the comparative access burdens for returning parties.

Consequently, while the number of votes that a party’s principal (i.e. highest vote grossing) candidate must receive in order retain his/her party’s ballot access has remained relatively stable since the MI Supreme Court’s 1982 Socialist Workers Party ruling – having risen by no more than 14%, – the signature burden for a “new” party seeking to qualify has since risen by over 107%. Moreover although Michigan’s 1978 General Election was the state’s only general election held between the original 1954 enactment of the present state election code and the close of the 20th Century, in which no “new” parties successfully became qualified, not a single new party has thus far qualified for the Michigan ballot in any of the past four state general elections; a period over which the signature threshold has now further skyrocketed by another 25%.

In addition to the tremendously uneven voter support thresholds now in place for “new” and returning parties, the case additionally challenges the ambiguous and frequently signature-chilling wording that the present MI statute requires to be printed on each sheet of any “petition to form [a] new political party,” as well as the lack of narrow tailoring or rational relation of Michigan’s present party access restrictions to any compelling or legitimate state interest, under the criteria outlined in prior opinions from both the federal and state courts. Correspondingly, the Socialist Party’s case charges that the presently applied ballot access statute only truly functions to test the scale of a “new” party’s financial resources, with respect to whether or not it’s capable of raising and spending the many tens of thousands of dollars necessary to mount a successful petition drive within the statute’s 180 day time-window.

“By no means has the Socialist Party been alone highlighting the fact that Michigan’s present party access scheme measures nothing other than a ‘new’ party’s ability to make large scale financial expenditures,” said Socialist Party of Michigan Chair Matt Erard. “This is a point that has been officially affirmed and emphasized by every organizationally operative political party in the state, from across the political spectrum; except for the two thoroughly corporate-financed major parties, which correspondingly hold the exclusive power to legislatively formulate the state’s ballot access requirements for any “new” party that seeks to challenge them before the state electorate,” Erard said.

“The purely financial nature of the state’s presently formulated litmus test for party ballot access is further exemplified by the fact that the first and only party to hold the potential capability of breaking through Michigan’s decade-long freeze on successful new party petitioning campaigns, is a sham pseudo-party whose entire existence is owed to the mendacious bankrolling of one major party seeking to splinter off votes from the other,” Erard said in reference to the recently filed petitions to qualify a new “Tea Party” for the Michigan ballot, at the widely reported estimated expense of well over $100,000.

Further citing the fact that the Socialist Party of Michigan’s “principal candidates” have received between 3.5 and 4.5 times the number of votes required for subsequent party access in each of the past three state general elections, as well as a 2002 amendment to Michigan’s party ballot access statute, within which the state legislature removed the prior wording that had required that a party’s “principal candidate” must necessarily be listed in the party column of his/her principally associated party on the ballot, the Party’s court-filed complaint and summary disposition brief also provide an extensively grounded argument that the Socialist Party of Michigan has already satisfied the statute’s facial wording, even amidst the present statute’s constitutionally infirm level of discrimination and restriction. Accordingly, the Socialist Party is individually joined by Co-Plaintiff Dwain Reynolds in the suit, whose grounds for challenging the SPMI’s denial of ballot access stem from both his status as an SPMI-supporting voter and as Party’s “principal candidate” in the preceding general election of 2008.

Referencing both the federal district court’s restoration of the Socialist Party of Ohio’s ballot-access following the lawsuit it filed against the state of Ohio in 2008 after more than a half-century of Ohio ballot-exclusion, as well as the state of Wisconsin’s overwhelmingly more surmountable requirements for qualifying the Party’s candidates, Erard further contended that “Socialist voters in Michigan have every bit as much of a fundamental right to equal treatment and political expression at the ballot box as their politically aligned counterparts directly across our state’s boundary lines.”

“As the oldest among Michigan’s present-day minor parties, the Socialist Party stands equally as committed to providing Michigan voters with a socialist alternative in the 2010 general election, as it did in Michigan elections held more a century ago – an alternative that speaks more immediately to present conditions and discourse in our state today than at virtually any time in our state’s history,” Erard added.

Serving collectively as the Socialist Party of Michigan’s nominated and certified 2010 electoral slate are the candidacies of Dwain Reynolds III of Middleville for the State Bd. of Education; Diana Demers of Westland for University of Michigan Bd. of Regents; Michael Crawford of Flint for Michigan State University Bd. Of Trustees; James Arnoldi of Willis for Wayne State University Bd. of Governors; John Longhurst of Alpena for 1st district Representative in Congress; Matt Erard of Detroit for 13th district Representative in Congress; and Michael Treacy of Marquette for 109th district State Representative.

Jul 22

Visit the Socialist Party booth at the 2010 Ann Arbor Art Fair – July 21st – 24th

For the third year in a row, the Socialist Party of Michigan is holding an information booth, packed with SP literature, statements, and merchandise, in the Non-Profits Section of the Ann Arbor Art Fair.

The Ann Arbor Art Fair Non-Profits section is located on Liberty St. between 5th Ave. and Division St. The Socialist Party booth is Non-Profits section booth number 58, composed of a Green gazebo displaying a Socialist Party USA banner across the front, and located directly across the street from the Seva restaurant.



Ann Arbor Art Fair/SPMI Booth Hours:
Wednesday July 21st: 10AM – 9PM
Thursday July 22nd: 10AM – 9PM
Friday July 23rd: 10AM – 9PM
Saturday July 24th: 10AM – 6PM