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By Cornelius A. Fortune
DETROIT – On Thursday, June 22, a suit was filed in federal court by Operation King’s Dream to prevent an anti-affirmative action ballot measure, called the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, from being placed on the November 2006 ballot. Macomb County NAACP, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus and AFSCME 207 support the suit.
Operation King’s Dream claims that the more than 125,000 signatures collected were gathered under false pretenses. Those who signed, the group says, believed that the ballot was in favor of affirmative action, not against it. According to Shanta Driver, national spokesperson for Operation King’s Dream, most African-American and Latino signers were mislead.
“We’re asking the federal court to issue an injunction and to draw the line right here,” she said. “It was purposely written to confuse people. Black people were specifically targeted. You shouldn’t have to be a constitutional scholar (to understand a petition). This was written in a way to specifically defraud people.”
She went on to talk about the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative and their roles in gathering the signatures.
“We’re not going to allow this racially targeted fraud – this stops now. That’s why we’re in court: so can get this fraud removed. This is cynical; it’s cruel; it’s illegal. Voters should obviously vote it down,” said Driver.
Former Detroit Councilwoman Sharon McPhail assured Detroiters that the mayor “is going to stand with the citizens of Detroit on this.”
“Right from the beginning, he was willing to step up and do whatever was necessary,” she said. “The integrity of the vote is more important than anything, and that separates us from a fascist nation.”
“The MCRI’s attempt to amend the state constitution and nullify the decision of the United States Supreme Court on the basis of this fraud is a provocation against the black communities of Michigan,” said Luke Massie, spokesperson for Operation King’s Dream. “MCRI must not go on the November ballot.”
The lawsuit charges that MCRI backer Ward Connerly, MCRI Executive Director Jennifer Grantz, the Michigan Secretary of State and the State Board of Canvassers violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Grantz likens the anti-ballot initiative to an attack on free speech.
“It will be thrown out of court,” she said confidently. “This gets to the heart of free speech – these people want to think and speak for everyone. I just think that this is a complete abuse of the system, abuse of power, and abuse of taxpayer dollars.”
Grantz spearheaded the effort that secured a record 500,000 plus signatures to amend the Michigan constitution.
“It’s a delay tactic,” she said, “and you have to ask why they don’t want the people to vote – they don’t want the people to debate this issue and they don’t want the people to vote on this issue. And that really gets at the heart of it. Why don’t they want the people to vote?”
A diverse group of organizations have come out against the MCRI including Affirmations Lesbian & Gay Community Center, American Friends Service Committee – LGBT Issues Program, Lansing Association for Human Rights, Michigan Chapter of Pride At Work, Michigan Equality, Triangle Foundation and Stonewall Bar Association.