For Immediate Release July 14, 2023
Contact: Elizabeth Ayoub,
MFE Director of Communications
July 14, 2023 – Lansing, Michigan. The Ypsilanti City Council has finally seen the light – or, shall we say, they have read the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. On July 11, after the Thomas More Society filed a claim against the city, the Council had their first reading of an ordinance to repeal a previous ordinance that essentially made Ypsilanti landlords speak on behalf of the government and do the government’s bidding. Residents of Ypsilanti, from landlords to renters to homeowners, can rest assured that at least for today, city council understands what freedom of speech is and who it protects.
“Ypsilanti is violating the First Amendment rights of these landlords,” declared Erick Kaardal, special counsel to the Thomas More Society. “The city’s choice to disseminate voter registration tools is in no way relevant to a housing rental agreement and should not involve those who own or manage properties in its implementation. Ypsilanti’s city code states, unbelievably, that landlords who fail to provide paper copies of voter registration information to their tenants are subject to a municipal civil infraction. It’s outrageous and it’s unconstitutional.”
In 2018 the Ypsilanti city council, perhaps following in the steps of East Lansing’s city council, enacted an ordinance that required landlords to “provide each tenant with specific information regarding voting and elections, discrimination, and tenants' rights and responsibilities in the City of Ypsilanti.” The information that a landlord was required to provide was approved by city council, printed by someone chosen by the city, and then given to landlords to give to each tenant.
Additionally, if a landlord did not provide a tenant with this information, the landlord would be subject to fines that would increase each time the landlord violated the ordinance.
“We are not government couriers and we do not speak on behalf of the government; we cannot be coerced to disseminate literature that has prepared by the government, literature that seemingly would speak for us,” the landlords stated. And they are correct. East Lansing was sued in federal court in March 2023 and quickly repealed its ordinance. The writing was on the wall, East Lansing saw, as in 2020 the federal district court in Minnesota struck down a similar ordinance because it was unconstitutional.
These courageous landlords, through their attorney, Erick Kaardal of the Thomas More Society (TMS) filed suit against Ypsilanti in May 2023 challenging the constitutionality of Ypsilanti Ordinance 1320.
“When the government can communicate directly to someone about anything like voting, it’s unconstitutional to compel a third party to do the communication on the government’s behalf,” Kaardal explained.
Ypsilanti City Attorney John Barr recommended to the city council that it would be better to repeal the ordinance than to fight the case in court.
Courage and the Constitution joined hands, and the Ypsilanti City Council read the proposed ordinance to repeal this Constitutionally-infirm ordinance. The first reading of the repeal was approved on a 5-1 vote.
Brave landlords, Pure Integrity Michigan Elections (PIME), the Thomas More Society, and Michigan Fair Elections hail this as a victory.
Pure Integrity for Michigan Elections is a grassroots 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization whose mission is to help restore election integrity to Michigan elections. The group works to achieve maximum transparency, checks and balances, ethics, and integrity in election law with an eye toward closing gaps and opportunities for abuse by those who would undermine free and fair elections. PIME is a peaceful, issue-based, nonpartisan organization movement that welcomes all who support election integrity and the US and Michigan Constitutions. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: pureintegritymichiganelections.org.