Expert: Font Size on Emergency Manager Repeal Petition Was Correct

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LANSING -- MSU professor Chris Corneal is a graphic design expert.

He says the petition to repeal the controversial emergency manager law is in compliance with state law.

"I determined that it was calibri bold set at 14 point," he says, demonstrating with a measurement tool.

All this stems from a controversial decision in April, when two Republicans on the state Board of Canvassers rejected a petition from the group Stand Up For Democracy that would have placed a repeal of Public Act 4 on the November ballot. The two canvassers argued the font size was smaller than the state's 14-point requirement.

Even though the two Democrats on the board voted to approve the petition, the 2-2 tie dead-locked it. Stand Up For Democracy appealed the decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals, which is expected to rule in the coming weeks.

But Corneal says this is a non-issue, arguing the group opposed to the petition (Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility) simply measured the font incorrectly.

"Simply measuring the heighth of the capital letter will not give an accurate point size. It should include the cap heighth, plus the depth of the descender [the lower part of, say, a g], plus a little buffer area that is different for different cap heighths," he says.

Under that measuring system, the headers on the petition in question are 14-point, in compliance with state guidelines.

Democratic groups are calling this an affront to democracy, noting that more than 200,000 people signed the petition.

"To say they couldn't read that petition is a stretch of the imagination," argues Steven Cook, president of the Michigan Education Association and supporter of the repeal.

Some have also raised a stink over an alleged conflict of interest on the board, noting one of the Republican canvassers who voted against the petition works for the company that helped form Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility.

They argue that canvasser, Jeff Timmer, should have recused himself from the vote. Timmer didn't return our request for comment.

But Norm Shinkle, the other Republican on the board, says his "No" vote was pretty simple.

"I was convinced that it wasn't 14-point font," he says.

He notes both sides had experts who supported their positions on font size, and says he did what he thought was right.

"Legislation says it shall be 14, and in my opinion it wasn't, so -- and that's what two of us of the four voted," he says, adding all this could have been avoided if Stand Up For Democracy had simply brought their petition to the Secretary of State for pre-approval.

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