Traverse City Record-Eagle


November 25, 2007

Editorial: State's top court sides with politics over voters

They've done it again.

The Michigan Supreme Court's Engler Majority, in its never-ending quest to prove that justice not only isn't blind but in fact views everything through a lens, has again created law out of whole cloth. This time, the beneficiaries were the Republican and Democratic parties; the losers were the rest of us.

In overturning two lower court rulings, the 4-3 Supreme Court majority declared Wednesday that Michigan could hold a Jan. 15 presidential primary election that would make it first in the nation and a power to be reckoned with.

But in doing so the court also upheld a clearly unconstitutional provision that only the two political parties -- not the public -- could have access to the lists of who voted and in which primary election they cast a ballot. That despite the fact that state taxpayers will be shelling out $10 million to pay for the election.

The court's assertion of political party privilege clearly flies in the face of not only common sense but decades of precedent. Further, it helps create the impression that there are two kinds of citizens -- those with political clout, and those without. It's not hard to tell which side the Engler Four favors (Chief Justice Clifford Taylor and justices Robert Young, Stephen Markman and Maura Corrigan were all appointed by former Gov. John Engler to the Supreme or state Appeals courts.)

The whole issue of lists came about only because the Legislature, ever ready to politicize public business, threw a clause into the primary election law giving only the political parties -- not the news media or public-interest or watchdog groups -- access. Providing access to anyone else would violate the law.

The lower courts clearly saw that as an unconstitutional granting of special privilege and ruled that if the taxpayers were footing the bill, they had a right to see what the political parties would see. This is Government 101. If public money is used to underwrite the process, the product of that process is public, with few exceptions. Access certainly can't be decided by one's level of political involvement.

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