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Payday loan proposal unlikely to make November ballot, Michigan says

ballot box
Earlier this year, 10 ballot measures were being circulated to change state law through voter initiatives. None likely will make the ballot. (Shutterstock)
  • Michiganders for Fair Lending is a ballot proposal to cap payday loan interest rates at 36 percent.
  • It was the only initiative proposing new laws to meet the June 1 signature submission deadline.
  • But state staff determined the effort fell 72,000 signatures short.

LANSING — Michiganders for Fair Lending — a ballot proposal to cap payday loan interest rates — does not have enough valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot, a Michigan Bureau of Elections staff report concluded.

The Friday finding, first reported by the subscription news service Gongwer, means none of the 10 ballot initiatives proposing new state laws likely made the cut. 


Two separate constitutional amendments — one to make abortion legal and the other to require the state to offer nine days of early voting — have also submitted signatures and could be on the November ballot.

Ballot measures to do everything from raising the minimum wage to tightening election rules missed deadlines to submit signatures, in part because of a ring of fraudulent signature gatherers and concerns of forged signatures. The same scandal kept five Republican gubernatorial candidates off the August primary ballot.

The ballot drive to cap annual interest rates of payday loans at 36 percent was the only state law initiative to submit signatures to the state by the June 1 deadline. Campaigns pushing for state laws must gather at least 340,047 valid signatures under the state law.

The staff report says Michiganders for Fair Lending turned in 392,009 signatures, but the Bureau of Elections estimates only 274,668 are valid. The campaign originally said it turned in more than 405,000 signatures.

Josh Hovey, spokesperson for the ballot drive, said the campaign disagrees with the bureau’s exact findings, but agrees the number of invalid signatures will keep the measure off the ballot.

“We continue to have concerns about the discrepancy in total signatures and the lack of chain of custody over the petitions when handled by the (Bureau of Elections),” Hovey said in a Tuesday text to Bridge Michigan. 

“Those are serious issues that the department should investigate.”

The Bureau first threw out more than 9,300 signatures based on technical errors, such as torn sheets, missing circulator information and unchecked boxes indicating whether the circulator was from out of state or paid, among others.

Election staff then checked 522 randomly-selected signatures — roughly 0.01 percent of the submission — to estimate the total number of invalid signatures the campaign has collected. Of the 522, only 375 were deemed valid, which warranted the bureau’s denial to certify the signatures for the ballot, the report says.

Safe Lending Michigan, a group opposing the ballot initiative, contended even more signatures should have been thrown out due to potential fraudulent activities, but the bureau said any invalid signatures identified by the staff had already been tossed. 

Hovey said in a Tuesday statement the campaign will urge voters to “hold local candidates accountable by urging them to support payday loan reform as part of their campaign platforms.”

The campaign will also push for state legislation to cap payday loan interest rates, Hovey said.

“Despite this disappointment, the coalition for fair lending remains motivated and dedicated to payday lending reform,” he said.

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