Friday, November 16, 2007

Court to delay primary decision (UPDATE)

cross posted at Huffington Post

UPDATE: Early this evening (Friday, Nov. 16) Michigan Messenger reported that the Court of Appeals has found the primary election law unconstitutional. The state can now take an appeal to the State Supreme Court.

The Michigan Court of Appeals said it needs several more days to decide if the state's primary election law is unconstitutional. The court is considering whether primary election voting records should be public record or can become the private property of political parties.

The case, brought by political consultant Mark Grebner (Democrat), contends that denying citizen access to voting records is unconstitutional. Last week, an Ingham County Circuit Court agreed. Secretary of State, Terry Lynn Land (Republican) immediately appealed. The Michigan Court of Appeals will likely decide before December 1st, the deadline to begin mailing absentee ballots oversees.

Grebner said he is not opposed to the primary, only the handling of voter records. While legislation could fix the problem, how that would play out is anybody's guess. Democrats control the House. Republicans hold a slim, yet effective majority in the Senate. But who wants what? Although the state party leadership publicly says they want a primary, supporters of various candidates want different things and each party is rife with internal conflict. Can legislators build bi-partisan alliances to accomplish common goals? Would Republicans break ranks to support individual candidates?

Hillary Clinton supporters would be delighted with the January 15 primary as it stands - she's the only Democratic front-runner on the ballot. Romney and McCain supporters would be thrilled with a state nominating convention - where the party activists do the choosing. Lesser Republican candidates certainly would do better with the January primary, but cross-over voting from Democrats could seriously skew the result.

Even if the Court allows the primary to proceed, House Bill 5353 poses the next threat - it would cancel the primary outright. According to staff in the office of lead sponsor, Representative Martin Griffin (Democrat), the Court of Appeals decision will determine the next steps for H.B. 5353. On October 24 the bill was sent to the House Oversight and Investigations Committee.