State Supreme Court Hears EFM Font Size Case

By: Lindsay Veremis Email
By: Lindsay Veremis Email

The future of Michigan's controversial Emergency Financial Manager law could all come down to the text on a page.

The state supreme court heard arguments Wednesday on whether a petition seeking to overturn that law follows rules about type size. An appeals court has already said the referendum should go on the November ballot.

For the supreme court, it is one printing issue, that is not entirely black and white.

"Is what the computer generates as font the same thing as 14-point type face?" Chief Justice Robert Young said, questioning the attorneys during the nearly two hour debate.

Young and the other justices listened as two groups made their case on the legality of the ballot proposal.

"What's at issue in this case is a constitutional and fundamental right to redress our government throught the process of the petition," Herbert Sanders, attorney for Stand Up for Democracy said.

Michigan law requires referendum petition headlines to be in capital letters and in 14-point type. Stand Up For Democracy says its measure does that and should go to voters.

"A litany of individuals testified, I knew I was signing when I penned my signature to the petition," Sanders explained.

Opponents say lawmakers wanted headlines to be clear and this one isn't big enough.

"The legislature made the decsion as to what the standard would be, I didn't make it, they did and it's been there for a long time," John Pirich, attorney for the Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility said.

Microsoft classifies the petition's font as 14-point, but opponents argue, it doesn't measure up on the printed page. Font style, changes text size.

"The letters shall be, not may be, or could be, or close enough," Pirich said.

The impact of the high court's decision could stretch beyond the EFM petition and potentially strike down other pending ballot proposals. It is unclear when the court will deliver its ruling.

"I suspect it's not going to be months, but I don't know that it's going to be days either," Pirich said.

A ruling must come before the September 7th deadline to get the wording on the ballot.


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