LANSING — The 4-3 majority on the Michigan Supreme Court has flipped from Republican-nominated justices to Democratic-nominated ones after Tuesday’s election — one of the relatively few bright spots for Democrats in terms of state offices.
Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack easily retained her seat in Tuesday’s election, and the balance of power on the seven-member court hinged on results for the other contested seat.
The contest for the other seat was closer, but Grand Rapids attorney Elizabeth Welch, a Democratic nominee, was in second place and had built a lead of more than 130,000 votes over former St. Clair County Assistant Prosecutor Mary Kelly, who was in third place, with about 87% of precincts reporting.
McCormack, a Democratic nominee, was the top vote-getter among seven candidates with close to 2.1 million votes, based on those partial and unofficial returns.
“My re-election to the Michigan Supreme Court is a victory for the people across the state who believe, as I do, that the courtroom is a place where being right is more important than being popular or powerful,” McCormack said in a news release.
Supreme Court justices appear on the nonpartisan portion of the election ballot, but are nominated at state party conventions. Republican nominees have held a 4-3 edge on the court since the administration of former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.
There was a closer race for the second seat on the court — an open seat held by Justice Stephen Markman, a Republican nominee, who is retiring because of age restrictions for judges. But Welch, who declared victory and was welcomed to the court by McCormack, had close to 1.3 million votes, while Kelly had 1.14 million, with 87% of precincts reporting.
A spokesman for Kelly could not immediately be reached for comment.
The importance of the court was highlighted recently when it struck down as unconstitutional the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945 — the main tool Gov. Gretchen Whitmer used to issue emergency orders related to the coronavirus pandemic. The 4-3 decision was along partisan lines.
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