Issue: Detachment – single petition and vote by multiple townships
Background: (Casco) Two adjacent townships—Casco and Columbus—and residents of those townships wanted to detach territory from the city of Richmond. The territory that sought to be detached was territory that previously had been annexed to the city. The townships presented the ballot issue covering both townships in a single petition, which, in essence, would have allowed residents of one township to vote not only on the return of property to their township but also the return of property to a township in which they did not reside. The Secretary of State refused to approve the election since residents of one township could vote on, and possibly determine, a change in the boundaries of another township in which they did not reside. The townships asked the circuit court to enter an order compelling the Secretary of State to approve the ballot.
(Fillmore) The city of Holland was the subject of proposals to detach four parts of city territory to four townships in one petition circulated in all five political jurisdictions. The single petition requested that various portions of the city be detached to four different townships that surrounded the city. The townships argued that language in the state statute that provides for territory to be detached “by proceedings originating by petition therefore signed by qualified electors who are freeholders residing within the cities, villages, or townships to be affected thereby” (MCL 117.6) permitted the use of one petition so that votes in the four townships could be combined and counted in favor of all four proposals for detachment. The township filed a complaint for mandamus directly with the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Why did the LDF get involved?
At risk was a critical interpretation of the provisions in the Home Rule City Act governing detachment. The townships argued that the statute in question supported the filing of a single petition and a single vote on multiple detachments. Such an interpretation, if upheld, would have created an advantage for those seeking detachment of city territory.
What action did the LDF take?
Filed amicus briefs with the Michigan Court of Appeals in both cases
What was the outcome?
The Michigan Supreme Court held that the Home Rule City Act does not allow a single petition and a single vote to encompass detachment of territory from a city and addition of that territory to multiple townships. The court found the language in the Home Rule City Act to be unambiguous.
Who prepared the amicus brief?
Eric D. Williams
(Michigan Court of Appeals)
William B. Beach (Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, P.L.C.)
(Michigan Supreme Court)