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Michigan Supreme Court ruling paves way for voters to decide on abortion rights constitutional amendment

The 5-2 ruling is a win for Democrats, who see abortion as an issue that will drive voters to the polls in November.
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Michigan voters this fall will decide whether to enshrine abortion rights in a constitutional amendment after the state's Supreme Court directed election officials to put the measure on the ballot.

In a 5-2 ruling, the Michigan Supreme Court ordered the Board of State Canvassers to certify a recent petition to get the abortion question on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The fight over the ballot measure went before the high court after members of the Board of State Canvassers were deadlocked 2-2 over whether to allow the initiative to go before voters this fall. Republicans on the board argued that spacing between certain words in the text of the abortion question rendered it no longer “[t]he full text.”

The court sided with the plaintiffs — Reproductive Freedom for All, an abortion-rights group backing the amendment — and ruled that the meaning of the words was "not changed by the alleged insufficient spacing between them."

"We are glad that the Court affirmed the will of the people," the group tweeted after Thursday's ruling. "Be sure to vote #YesOn3 this November 8."

In a concurring opinion, Chief Justice Bridget McCormack noted that over 753,000 residents had signed the proposal, "more than have ever signed any proposal in Michigan’s history.”

"The challengers have not produced a single signer who claims to have been confused by the limited-spacing sections in the full text portion of the proposal," McCormack wrote. "They would disenfranchise millions of Michiganders not because they believe the many thousands of Michiganders who signed the proposal were confused by it, but because they think they have identified a technicality that allows them to do so, a game of gotcha gone very bad."

A state judge on Wednesday struck down Michigan’s 1931 anti-abortion law, which criminalizes performing an abortion unless the woman’s life is in danger. In that case, state appeals Judge Elizabeth Gleicher ruled that the statute violated the state constitution.

Democrats in several states hope to have ballot measures similar to Michigan's by the time voters head to the polls.

Kansas voters were the first to vote on abortion rights after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. Kansans rejected a ballot question that proposed removing language from the state constitution that guaranteed the right to abortion.