A Michigan state elections panel voted along party lines Wednesday to block a proposal that could enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution.
The reason? A typography issue.
Words were not misspelled ― nay, there was simply not sufficient spacing between some of them, apparently. (In graphic design, the space between characters is called “kerning.”)
The Michigan Board of State Canvassers deadlocked over whether to allow the abortion proposal to appear on the November ballot after a right-wing group challenged the proposal, which had been organized by the pro-choice group Reproductive Freedom for All.
The right-wing group, called Citizens to Support MI Women and Children, challenged the entire effort because, they said, minimal spacing in the text of the proposed amendment language reduced it to “gibberish.”
The canvassing board’s two Republican members voted to block the proposal, while two Democrats voted in favor of allowing it to appear before the voting public. A staff report from the state bureau of elections, overseen by Michigan’s Democratic secretary of state, had recommended approving the petition.
The drive to cement abortion rights in the Michigan constitution revealed a groundswell of support in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Organizers needed to collect at least 425,059 signatures. That specific hurdle stemmed from a rule stipulating that proposals to alter the state constitution must be “signed by registered electors of the state equal in number to at least 10 percent of the total vote cast for all candidates for governor at the last preceding general election at which a governor was elected.”
In the end, they managed to collect more than 750,000 signatures.
All is not quite lost for abortion rights supporters in Michigan. The state’s left-leaning supreme court could intervene in the coming days, although they face a Sept. 9 deadline to set the text of the ballot, according to The Detroit News.
Abortion is currently legal in the Great Lakes state. But that could change if a 1931 anti-abortion law is eventually permitted to go into effect.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has vowed to “fight like hell” to prevent the nearly century-old ban from becoming the law of the land. It criminalizes abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest. While the measure is currently blocked by a judge from taking effect, its conservative supporters say the fight is not over.
Enshrining the right to abortion in the state constitution, however, would settle the issue.