Court of Appeals to rule on Emergency Manager petitions soon — without all the information they need


How long are we going to put up with this?

Yesterday in Detroit, the three Republican judges on the Michigan Court of Appeals heard testimony regarding the font-size challenge to the petitions gathered to put the repeal of Public Act 4 — the Emergency Manager Law — on the November ballot. As I wrote about the other day, they did so without complete information because expert analysis of the font used on the petitions — analysis requested by the Michigan Director of State Elections — was not included in the overview given to the Board of State Canvassers before they made their decision on April 26.

Laura Conaway at The Maddow Blog spoke with the expert, Assistant Professor Chris Corneal of the Graphic Design in the Department of Art, Art History and Design at Michigan State University. Here’s what he had to say:

If you read the email exchange (pdf) between the state official and the professor, it almost sounds like the state official was a little frustrated with the technicalities of fonts.

“Tomorrow morning I will have to explain why 14 point Calibri is not really 14 point size,” the official wrote on the eve of the Board of State Canvassers vote. He continued, “Again, why would Calibri 14 be put into software as 14 point when clearly it is not?”

Yesterday I talked to that professor, Chris Corneal, and he told me the way the state is trying to measure the type is wrong.

The specs are based on the old letterpress system, where each letter existed on a single block of wood or metal — great big capital “N’s” and low-hanging “g’s” lived on blocks of the same size, according to their fonts. To say something is 14-point type, as the law requires, would have meant measuring the entire block, not just the inkform that appears on the page. But most printing is done digitally now, so you have to consider the range of letters in a sample AND the spacing around the letters. You can’t consider just the ink of a single capital “N” as the petition challengers did and pronounce it standard or not. “The standard is not a standard,” Professor Corneal said. “We almost need to start over with the requirements in the law.”

Beyond comparing a sample to the known font, he said, the only way to know for sure is to ask the printer who created the documents. Because of the change in technology, if the court won’t accept as definitive the sworn testimony of the print shop hired by the petitioners, as the state didn’t, then the petition side may find proving its case almost impossible — regardless of the politics of Michigan’s elected judges.

Radio talk show host and reporter Charlie Langton had Mr. Corneal on his show and he had this to say:

Corneal issued a report saying the font was the correct size, but his report was somehow lost before it got to court and wasn’t part of the decision-making process.

“I guess (I was) a little frustrated when I heard that,” Corneal said. “I was asked by the Secretary of State (for an opinion), then they didn’t use it.” […]

Corneal said the petition in question was sent to him as a pdf and he circled through type faces and font sizes until he came up with an opinion on what exactly it was.

“When I compared it to 14-point, I felt it was consistent,” he said. “I let the Secretary of State know … He said ‘thank you’ and then I was contacted by the petitioners and asked to put it in writing.”

“We’re splitting hairs, literally on this point font size here — is this really boiling down to politics?” Langton said, later adding, ‘What’s disturbing to me is that this professor’s opinion that was asked by the Secretary of State was not considered by the Board of Canvassers.”

Corneal responded: “To me it seems a little odd, but I leave it up to the lawyers to decide those questions.”

After the hearing yesterday, my good friend Bruce Fealk of the Rochester Citizen interviewed Stand Up for Democracy attorney Herb Sanders. At the end of the interview, Bruce asks him if the people of Michigan should “take to the streets”, non-violently, of course, if the Court of Appeals rules against allowing the petitions on the ballot. Here’s what he said:

There comes a time when you become frustrated with the denial of your rights, that the extraordinary measures that are being taken to deny your rights require an extraordinary response. So I think it’s up to the people what that response will be.

The Court of Appeals will rule soon on this issue and you can be sure that, no matter how they decide, it will be appealed to the Supreme Court.

As I have already written, this was never about the fonts. It has always been about making sure that the Republicans continue to be able to operate with impunity. They have placed their people in positions of power and as gate keepers at every level in our government, including the one place where Michigan Citizens can go to redress their grievances against their government.

They control everything in Michigan government right now:

  • The Governor’s office.
  • The Lt. Governor’s office.
  • The Attorney General’s office.
  • The Secretary of State’s office.
  • The House of Representatives.
  • The Senate.
  • The Court of Appeals.
  • The Supreme Court.

The Republicans’ budgets and the new laws they pass all seem geared toward creating situations that guarantee the failure of our public schools and aging urban municipalities. And there, waiting at the end of that inevitable failure, they have placed a dictatorial, tyrannical Emergency Manager who can complete the transfer of public assets to the private sector, crush the unions that stand be between them and more profits, and turn our kids’ education into a profit-making venture for the operators of cyber schools and charter schools.

This didn’t happen overnight. This happened by design and the plans were put in place long ago, waiting for the moment when they had enough power to execute the plan. In 2010 they got that power and we are now seeing the outcome.

In November of 2012, that must change.

[CC image credit: Blood for Oil]