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Judgment day

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No one ever accused News Hits of being overly concerned with the issue of objectivity. We straddle the line between reporting and opinion-spouting, with an emphasis on the latter those weeks we fail to do any actual, you know, reporting because we've spent too much time at local watering holes knocking back the latest trendy cocktails (Exhibit A being the second item in this week's column).

Still, we strive to maintain at least a semblance of credibility with the dim hope that we'll one day be able to fool contest judges and reel in a plaque or two come awards time (something that, to date, has not even come close to happening).

All this preamble is an attempt to explain that even a column as light on journalistic ethos as News Hits feels a wee bit uncomfortable when it comes to handling a story that includes the rag we work for as one of the protagonists.

Normally, when faced with tough situations like that we just try to weasel our way out of the assignment. But this week we just couldn't find any escape hole big enough to squirm through. So, here's the dope as straight as we can shoot it:

In January, the Michigan ACLU filed a federal lawsuit claiming that it's illegal to let only Michigan's two major political parties have access to information about who voted in the presidential primary held in Michigan. The parties — and no one else — would also be able to see whether individual voters cast ballots for a Democrat or a Republican.

A state law passed last year gave the two parties exclusive rights to that information, cutting out third parties, the media and others. In fact, anyone who got ahold of the "secret" information and tried to do something with it could be fined up to $1,000 and thrown in the slammer for as long as 93 days.

Ouch.

The ACLU claimed that violated a couple of constitutional amendments — including one that protects press freedoms. That's how the Metro Times came to be a party to this lawsuit. Also being represented by the ACLU in this are the Green, Reform and Libertarian parties, as well as political consultant David Forsmark.

We bring all of this up now because last week U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds issued a preliminary injunction ordering Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land to hold off on providing the info to the Democratic and Republican parties until a hearing can be held on the issue. That hearing has been scheduled for March 26.

Our reason for participating was belief in the principle that, if the two main political parties get the information, it should be open to everyone. Truth be told, though, News Hits would prefer that no one get to see what party an individual cast a ballot for. And, according to Thomas Wieder, the attorney handling this case for the ACLU, that could well be the result this lawsuit achieves if Edmunds rules the law is unconstitutional.

The way we understand it, the injunction just issued is a big step in that direction.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com

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