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For want of a font

April 27, 2012 Filed under Blog, Featured, Humor 

If you think following the rules isn’t important, then consider the fate of the 203,238 people who signed a Michigan petition to put a referendum on the ballot in November. The two Republicans on the Board of State Canvassers voted against allowing the referendum to proceed to the ballot, deadlocking the Board 2-2. The reason the petition was denied? The font size.

Republicans cited the wrong font size on the title of the petitions circulated by Stand Up For Democracy, a coalition of groups that launched the petition campaign, as the reason for not approving the initiative for the ballot. Opponents gathered 203,238 signatures, roughly 40,000 more than needed to get a repeal question on the ballot.

John Pirich, an attorney representing Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, which opposed the petitions, disagreed with Thomas’ statement that the board’s standard should be whether the petition “substantially complies” with the rules. He noted that the statute says petitions “shall” use specified type sizes and adhere to other technical requirements.

“‘Shall,’ in legal parlance, is a mandatory term,” Pirich said. “It didn’t say ‘get in the ball park,’ it said it ‘shall.’

“We believe the petition is fatally flawed in that regard.”

Sanders noted several Court of Appeals petition cases where the court used a standard of “substantial compliance” to determine a petition’s validity.

“All doubts as to (the validity of the petitions) are resolved in favor of allowing the people to vote and express their will,” Sanders said, eliciting applause and hoots of approval from the crowd. “The statutory language should be liberally construed and all disputes should be resolved in favor of allowing the people to vote.

Sanders testified there are several complicated formulas for determining font size, saying it’s impossible to determine if headline type met the 14 point requirement simply by using a ruler.

“If we are wrong, then the scientifically accepted formula for determining font size is wrong, if we are wrong then the Court of Appeals is wrong … if we are wrong then democracy is wrong,” Sanders said.

Printer Bruce Hack of Inland Press said he certified the type size met legal requirements before printing the petitions.

“There is no way that you can just measure a capital letter and determine what the type size is,” Hack said.

This is how democracy ends. Font size.

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