Photo Credit: Steve Estvanik/Shutterstock Photo Credit: Steve Estvanik/Shutterstock

A group of conservative elites is still hoping to bypass voters on key issues after a missed deadline. They’re not giving up.


Need to Know

  • Conservative petitions failed to meet a six-month deadline for signatures, stalling progress but not derailing efforts.
  • Even if they eventually meet the 340,000-signature requirement, citizens more than likely won’t get to vote on these issues.
  • Republicans plan to circumvent the governor and voters to push their agenda into law. 

LANSING, Mich.—Foul weather spoiled many plans this winter, but it only postponed those of conservative activists hoping to use a legislative loophole to bypass voters.  

A missed deadline means more legwork for organizers of the Secure MI Vote and Unlock Michigan 2 ballot measures, which would restrict voter access and public health measures in Michigan. For the measures to go straight to legislators–bypassing the governor and voters–the groups need 340,047 signatures, collected within a six-month time period.Because petitioners filed early, they’re able to try again–tossing any signatures from too far back.

Though paid circulators have been canvassing Michigan’s towns asking people to sign the two petitions for months, a GOP consultant blamed the lack of luck on weather and shortages of canvassers. 

“Last week was the first really good week, just strictly from a weather standpoint,” Fred Wszolek, a GOP consultant, said Monday to Bridge Michigan. “And you know, (circulators) will work if people are willing to sign, but when it’s super cold out, people weren’t willing to necessarily stop and sign a stack of paper.”

Wszolek said liberal petitioners have run into the same problems. None have yet missed the six-month deadline.

If the petitions meet their signature requirement, state legislators can preempt a public vote by picking up the initiatives with a majority in both chambers. Since Republicans control both sides of Michigan’s legislature, they’ll likely use this tactic as a way to shortcut proposals that they believe voters would reject or the governor, a Democrat, would shoot down. Ballot initiatives are not subject to a veto.

Recently, Republicans used this strategy to limit the governor’s powers during the pandemic and water down a popular minimum wage proposal that organizers wanted to pass.

Secure MI Vote seeks to place greater strain on citizens to vote, cut down on absentee ballots, and place financial strain on local governments to run elections. If enacted, churches could no longer volunteer as polling stations—an attack on communities of color, opponents say—and donations in support of elections would not be allowed. In 2018, Michigan residents resoundingly voted for more accessible elections, when Prop 3 passed with two-thirds of the vote after receiving enough signatures to be placed on the ballot.

Unlock Michigan 2 seeks to cap local health board orders for epidemics and pandemics at 28 days.

Meanwhile, liberal organizers are encouraging voters to not sign petitions for Secure MI Vote and other conservative measures, MLive reported. Circulators for conservative petitions have lied and misled people to get their signature, an act which is totally legal in Michigan, even as some Democratic lawmakers have offered fixes

Following an investigation from the Attorney General’s office, the first Unlock Michigan campaign was found to have engaged in regular, deliberate attempts to trick people into signing something they didn’t believe in. 

“No Michigan citizen should be lied to or misled when asked to support policies that will impact them and their families,” Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s top election official, said in a statement to MLive. “These bills would bring needed reforms to protect voters and our democracy by making clearly unethical acts illegal.”