Michigan Supreme Court Justice Visits Gaylord, Talks Abortion, Voting

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GAYLORD — Richard Bernstein and his fellow Michigan Supreme Court justices will soon be embroiled in two contentious issues: abortion and election laws.

“(Abortion) is one of those key issues where ultimately the (State Supreme) Court will have to look at the statute, the constitution and all the issues. Ultimately, the last word about it will be decided by my court,” Bernstein said.

Bernstein was in Gaylord on Monday to speak with members of the Otsego County Democratic Party. Because judges are encouraged not to comment on pending litigation, he was cautious in his comments on abortion and ballot measures involving the Board of State Solicitors last week.

An abortion rights group has urged the state Supreme Court to approve a November ballot question on whether abortion rights should be enshrined in the state constitution. Reproductive Freedom for All filed its claim in the High Court after the state canvassing commission dismissed the ballot issue by voting 2-2 along partisan lines. A pair of Republican commissioners cited what they called inconsistent wording and spacing errors in opposing petitions calling for the ballot issue.

The Supreme Court has until Friday, September 9 to decide whether the proposal will pass.

Abortion-rights supporters say it’s important for state residents to be able to weigh in on the issue of abortion, especially given a 1931 law that would ban all abortions except to save mother’s life that abortion opponents hoped would be sparked by the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade in June. The law has been stalled by months of court battles.

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“It’s not just about an abortion,” Bernstein said. “It can also affect assisted pregnancies, in vitro fertilization and scientific research.”

Meanwhile, supporters of an effort to expand voting opportunities have also asked the state Supreme Court to file a proposed constitutional amendment requiring nine days of early voting in person, ballot boxes by publicly funded correspondence and postage for ballots and mail-in applications.

The move came after the Board of State Solicitors again tied 2-2 in putting the case to voters on Nov. 8.

Again, to avoid commenting directly on the outstanding issues in court, Bernstein pointed to the complexity of voting and elections.

“A presidential election is essentially 50 separate state elections,” Bernstein said. “It is up to each state to determine how it will conduct an election. The Michigan Supreme Court will have to determine the constitutionality of a number of different election processes.”

Bernstein is seeking re-election on the state High Court. He became the first voter-elected blind judge in 2014.

Bernstein is also scheduled to attend a Barreau Emmet-Charlevoix luncheon on Sept. 7 in Petoskey.

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