Who Wins If Dueling Constitutional Amendments Both Pass?
On the docket Friday at the Michigan Board of Canvassers meeting were two constitutional amendments with contradicting language in the proposals: MI Right to Vote and Protect the Vote 2022.
If they both collect 425,059 valid signatures before 5 p.m. July 11 and both were to pass on Nov. 8, what would happen? According to a pair of legal experts, the following Constitutional provision would be activated:
“If two or more amendments approved by the electors at the same election conflict, that amendment receiving the highest affirmative vote shall prevail,” reads Article 12, Section 2 of the Michigan Constitution.
The petition process only started in earnest on Monday, after the language for each was approved with conditions that language be changed and a union logo be removed (See “Union Logo Stalls $15-An-Hour, Pro-Abortion Petitions” 2/11/22). In all, as many as 13 separate constitutional amendments and citizens initiatives may be out in the field for signatures.
“You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting somebody circulating a petition in Michigan right now,” said Fred WZSOLEK, from Strategy Works, who is overseeing four such petitions.
The winner-take-all system also extends to citizen-driven initiatives.
Peter RUDDELL, an attorney with Honigman, said the last time the statute came close to being used was in 1996 during a fight in Michigan over bear hunting. A citizen-backed initiative and legislative-backed ballot issue contradicted each other. The legislative-backed issue won the day, avoiding the problem.
“It is exceedingly rare,” Ruddell said.
Wzsolek told Kyle MELINN on the Monday MIRS podcast that he was not even sure if many of the proposals would end up making it to the ballot.
“It is hard though. One thing you notice, when the number of petitions on the street goes up, everybody’s duplication rates goes up because people start forgetting which petitions they have signed,” Wzsolek said.
He said he thought provisions from similar amendments, which were not necessarily in direct conflict, could end up before the Michigan Supreme Court to decide how to hash out the provisions of difference in each proposal.
“It would be a confusing mess for a really long time,” Wzsolek said.