Michigan lawmakers send Gov. Snyder bill to add hurdles to ballot drives

Michigan lawmakers early Friday sent Gov. Rick Snyder legislation to add hurdles to citizen-driven ballot measures. The bills come less than two months after voters overwhelmingly approved three ballot proposals. 

Update: Gov. Snyder signs bill making ballot initiatives more difficult

Michigan lawmakers early Friday sent legislation to Gov. Rick Snyder that would impose a host of new hurdles to bringing citizen initiatives to the ballot.

The Senate voted 26-12 on House Bill 6595, which would require ballot measure organizers get no more than 15 percent of signatures from each of the state’s 14 congressional districts. The measure also requires signature gatherers to register as paid or volunteer and face misdemeanors if they misrepresent themselves.

Proponents say the measure is a good government reform to add transparency to a process that increasingly is being funded by out-of-state interests. Critics say it’s blatantly unconstitutional and will dramatically deter ballot measures.

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The reform follows three successful ballot measures in November that created a citizen commission to draw political districts, legalize marijuana and ease voting access.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jim Lower, R-Cedar Lake, told Bridge Magazine last week he proposed the legislation because he was surprised so many constituents didn’t know those measures were financed by out-of-state groups.

“There wasn’t really any transparency on that, people just thought it was a citizen-led effort and that’s just what it was,” Lower said.

The limits on signatures would require initiatives to have buy-in from residents throughout the state before appearing on the ballot, he said. Now, signature gatherers can focus on southeast Michigan, which is home to about half of the state’s population.

The proposal has support from business groups such as the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Association of Michigan.

But those across the political spectrum have objected to the bill.

Early Friday, the League of Women Voters of Michigan tweeted that the bill makes “petition drives impossible” and urged followers to ask Snyder to veto them.

Genevieve Marnon, legislative director for Right to Life of Michigan, told a House committee the bill would cause “an administrative nightmare.”

Several question its constitutionality, including Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, a Republican.

He said the current rules are “sufficiently tough.”

“This is really a solution in search of a problem,” added Erica Peresman, an executive committee member of Promote the Vote, which successfully organized a ballot initiative to enshrine a series of voting rights in the state constitution.


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Carl Ver Beek
Fri, 12/21/2018 - 10:33am

Petition drives are not a good way to legislate.

Asking people to approve something out of context is not likely to provide a balanced proposal. We saw that in the recent proposals which forced the legislature to act and then retract to avoid permanent damage.

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 12:55pm

What do you mean by "out of context"?

The existing hurdles that ballot measures must clear are significant. How is having legislation written at the 11th hour with no fact-finding by politicians accountable to no one but monied special interests better than gathering hundreds of thousands of signatures from Michiganders and then letting them vote on the issue directly?

It sounds like you're arguing that oligarchy is preferable to democracy.

Sun, 12/23/2018 - 8:19am

Josh, to answer your question, how is it proper for a craven ideological group to whip up the public, none of which know me, my employees or the details or operations of my business, to tell me how much they (my employees) should be paid or what benefits they should be provided? It's hard to say where your oligarchy really exists. And as confirmed by Bernie Sanders, Hitler won his power democratically.

Agnosticrat 2.0
Wed, 12/26/2018 - 3:21pm

As a member of the whipped up public, I'd appreciate it if you paid your employees better and gave them paid time off when they are sick!

Marie Littlefield
Sun, 12/23/2018 - 3:30am

The process to get an idea to the ballot is complicated and expensive enough. Where the idea comes from and how “educated” a voter is shouldn’t be the criteria for making the process even more difficult and expensive. In the end, the voters of Michigan should be allowed to decide whether an issue is right or wrong for Michigan. HB 6595 passing means it’s likely many good ideas for the state won’t get off the ground to be decided for or against.

Doug Moiles
Sun, 12/23/2018 - 6:14am

Regarding out of state financing for initiatives, are we to assume that our elected state lawmakers accept only Michigan originated campaign contributions?