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Poll: Voters approve of new Whitmer orders after court ruling17/10/2020
LANSING – Half of Michigan voters agree with a Michigan Supreme Court ruling that struck down an emergency law Gov. Gretchen Whitmer relied on to address the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new Free Press poll from EPIC-MRA.
But a bigger majority - 63% - say they approve of new orders Whitmer imposed, using the Michigan Public Health Code, in the wake of the 4-3 ruling that struck down as unconstitutional the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945.
The ruling invalidated a wide range of Whitmer orders that required face masks, imposed limits on certain business operations, and restricted the size of indoor and outdoor gatherings.
Whitmer quickly responded by issuing new and similar orders under a different law - the Michigan Public Health Code.
That action drew sharp criticisms from Republican state lawmakers.
"The highest court in our state couldn't have been more clear in their ruling - they told Gov. Whitmer to stop breaking the law by going it alone and to work with the Legislature to tackle the pandemic," Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, said on Twitter on Oct. 5.
"Clearly she didn't get the message."
But the statewide poll of 600 active and likely voters - commissioned by the Free Press and its outstate media partners and conducted between Oct. 8 and Oct. 12 - takes some of the sting out of that criticism.
The results of the poll, which included 50% cellphone users and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, suggest Michiganders support Whitmer's actions to address the pandemic. But some may be more comfortable with her exercising unilateral powers that are specifically health-related than the wide-ranging economic and other emergency powers she could wield under the 1945 law.
A bare majority - 50% - said they agreed with the court, which found that the Legislature ceded too much power to the executive branch when it passed the emergency law in 1945. Although Whitmer used the law as it was written, to extend Michigan's state of emergency as long as she felt necessary, the law itself was unconstitutional, the court ruled.
Another 43% disagreed with the court decision and 7% were undecided or refused to say, the survey found.
But a bigger majority - 63% - said they agreed with the actions Whitmer took in response to the court ruling, essentially replacing many of the most significant emergency orders with new orders.
Only 30% said they disagreed with the new orders, issued by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon, while 8% were undecided or refused to say.
Both Whitmer and her actions have remained popular since the pandemic began in March, said Bernie Porn, president of EPIC-MRA of Lansing.
"They feel that she is doing a good job of keeping them safe," he said.
More: Michigan reports 2,030 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, its highest daily count yet
More: Michigan health department issues sweeping COVID-19 regulations that mirror Whitmer orders
In addition to the orders under the Public Health Code, the GOP-controlled Legislature has moved to codify into law former Whitmer orders related to extending eligibility for jobless benefits to 26 weeks, up from 20 weeks, and allowing local governments to meet remotely during the pandemic without violating the Open Meetings Act. Whitmer is expected to sign those bills when they reach her desk.
Porn said it's possible voters had more concerns about the broad state of emergency powers Whitmer had under the Emergency Powers of Governor Act than the more pandemic-specific powers provided under the Public Health Code.
But he noted the poll found sharp partisan differences in how voters viewed both the court decision and Whitmer's subsequent actions.
Among Republicans surveyed, 85% agreed with the Supreme Court ruling and 32% agreed with Whitmer's subsequent public health orders.
Among Democrats, only 19% agreed with the court's decision, and 89% agreed with the orders under the Public Health Code.
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