ballot question petitions

It looks like a referendum on the controversial issue of wolf-hunting is headed to the November ballot – again. This will be the second hunting-related ballot question (and, possibly, not the last) voters will decide in a little less than eight months.

The Keep Michigan Wolves Protected Campaign turned in petition signatures to the state Bureau of Elections just yesterday. It takes 161,305 signatures, and we can reasonably expect the campaign has enough names. Because, after all, they’ve done this before.

Most recently, just last year, when Keep Michigan Wolves Protected filed enough signatures to suspend and challenge the first Michigan wolf hunting law adopted after the gray wolf was taken off the federal endangered species list. That is the first referendum challenge and it is already on the November ballot.

But the Legislature, as well as Gov. Rick Snyder, would not be thwarted. They adopted a second law to allow wolf hunting (among other things), and that is the target of this newest referendum campaign.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan voters could see a question on the November ballot this year asking them to make the state Legislature part-time.

The Committee to Restore Michigan’s Part-Time Legislature has turned in petition language to the state Bureau of Elections.

“This is about actually taking a Legislature that’s been pretty much dominated by lobbyists and getting them back into a citizen-driven ideology,” said the group’s chair, Norman Kammeraad, on the Michigan Public Television program “Off the Record.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Abortion opponents have turned in more than 315,000 petition signatures calling on the Legislature to place new restrictions on health coverage.

The new law would require consumers to buy separate coverage for abortions.

Abortion opponents say they want to make sure that abortion coverage is not automatic when people buy insurance under the new federal healthcare law. The petition-initiated law would require consumers to buy a separate rider for abortion coverage.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan could require people paid to collect signatures for a ballot drive to wear an ID badge.

Legislation to be considered by a House committee Tuesday would require the ID to say that the person is being paid and to identify who's paying the circulator. The ID would be required for constitutional amendments, initiated legislation and referendum drives.

Another proposed change would prohibit a circulator of recall petitions from being paid a fixed rate or amount for each signature.

The practice of paying people to gather ballot signatures has come under scrutiny in recent years.

The House Elections and Ethics Committee isn't expected to vote on the bill Tuesday.

Ballot campaigns would no longer be allowed to pay petition circulators based on the number of signatures they collect if a state house bill becomes law.

The measure was introduced just days after Michigan voters rejected all six proposals on the November ballot.

Republican state Representative Ken Horn said paying for signatures is an incentive for circulators to mislead voters.         

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder says he’d like to see some changes in the rules for how petition drives put proposals on the ballot.

The governor is particularly critical of paying petition circulators for signatures.

Ballot campaigns spent at least $9.6 million on signature collection alone this year. Governor Snyder said that circumvents the idea of ballot campaigns as grassroots initiatives.

He opposes the five proposed amendments to the state constitution.

Dario Corsi / Redhead Design Studio

It’s now up to the state Supreme Court to decide whether the referendum to challenge Michigan’s emergency manager law will appear on the November ballot. The court spent 90 minutes today listening to arguments on whether a dispute over type size is enough to keep the question off the ballot.
    
John Pirich is the attorney for Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility. The business-backed group is trying to knock the referendum off the ballot. Pirich says it’s not enough to trust that a computer program used by petition printers is accurately measuring type size.  

“Everyone knows what a computer can do. I can make letters get scrunched. I can make letters get elongated. They say 12-, 14-, or six-point font, whatever it might say, but that can be manipulated," he said.

Supporters of the referendum say the petitions were correctly printed in the proper font size. They also say the will of more than 200,000 petition signers should not be ignored.

Lead in text: 
Today, the Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments about the validity of Stand Up for Democracy's petition challenging the state's emergency manager law. The high court will rule on the legality of the petition's font size. So what's all the fuss about? Check out this Michigan Radio infographic breaking down the issue.
Law
user imma / MorgueFile.com

The campaign to put renewable energy targets into the state constitution filed 550,000 petition signatures today to qualify for the November ballot.

This campaign pits utility companies and their employee unions against energy entrepreneurs who see a business opportunity in amending Michigan’s constitution. The amendment would require energy providers to generate a quarter of the state’s electricity using wind, solar power or other renewable resources by 2025.

The Michigan Hall of Justice
user Subterranean / Wikimedia Commons

Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility has been trying to block a statewide referendum on Michigan’s emergency manager law. Today, the group filed a request asking the Michigan Supreme Court to overturn a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling earlier this month that would allow voters to decide on emergency managers.

The group says a mistake in the font size that pro-referendum campaigners Stand Up for Democracy used in a portion of the text of their petitions was too small under regulations. 

Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility believes the font size is reason enough to keep the emergency manager referendum off the November ballot.

Dario Corsi / Redhead Design Studio

Even though they won today, the group hoping to repeal Michigan's emergency manager law could still face a legal challenge in the Michigan Supreme Court.

Those arguing against the emergency manager voter referendum say size matters. And they say the font on the petitions circulated by the group Stand Up for Democracy was too small.

It doesn't matter if they collected more than enough signatures from registered voters in Michigan, the petition's challengers say, the letter of the law must be followed.

And the letter of the law specifies font size.

But if you really want to go there, and yes Michigan, we've gone there, it's not that easy to determine font size these days.

Check out the infographic above for some font-size forensics (the second slide shows the font size in question).

Thanks to Dario Corsi, a graphic illustrator with Redhead Design Studio, for putting this together.

So you be the judge. Clear as day? Or clear as mud?

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers deadlocked 2-2 along party lines this morning on whether to allow a challenge to the state's emergency manager law on the November ballot.

Update 5:17 p.m.

MPRN's Rick Pluta filed audio on the scene at today's Board of State Canvassers meeting. Here's what it sounded like - first the chants of "Shame!" from the crowd after the Board had a deadlocked, which meant the question would not be put to voters in November - and then the response from Herb Sanders, the attorney for the Stand Up for Democracy campaign.

Sanders says the next stop is the Michigan Court of Appeals.

12:27 p.m.

The Detroit News has more on the scene at the Board of State Canvassers meeting this morning:

Democrats Julie Matuzak and James Water voted to approve the petitions while Republicans Jeffrey Timmer and Norman Shinkle voted against it.

More than 140 supporters of repealing Public Act 4 began chanting "Shame, Shame, Shame" and shouting down the board members as "fascists" as they tried to exit the heated meeting.

An attorney arguing for the Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, the group challenging the validity of the petitions, says the law uses the term "shall" - as in petitions "shall" use certain font and type sizes.

"'Shall,' in legal parlance, is a mandatory term," Pirich said. "It didn't say 'get in the ball park', it said it 'shall.' "We believe the petition is fatally flawed in that regard."

Herb Sanders, the attorney representing Stand Up For Democracy, a coalition of groups that launched the petition campaign, noted several Court of Appeals petition cases where the court used a standard of "substantial compliance" to determine a petition's validity.

11:59 a.m

The Board of State Canvassers has deadlocked along party lines on whether to put the referendum challenge to the emergency manager law on the ballot. Republicans on the board pointed to the use of an incorrect type size on the petition as grounds for denying it access to the November ballot. The ballot campaign can now go to the state Court of Appeals.

Supporters of a ballot initiative to overturn Michigan’s emergency manager law say their petitions will withstand any challenges.

They gathered more than 226,000 signatures in an effort to put the law up for voter referendum.

Those petitions now await certification from the state board of canvassers.

Detroit NAACP lawyer Butch Hollowell says the petitions should easily stand up to the latest legal challenge: a claim, filed by the group Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, that petition headers were typed in the wrong font size.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

People who want to put a question on the ballot could soon have to get their petitions pre-approved by a government panel before they could gather signatures. That’s under a measure that cleared the state House today on a party-line vote.

The measure could force current petition drives to get state approval and then start over. The petition drives would guarantee union organizing rights, require disclosure of businesses’ political spending, and boost renewable energy requirements on utilities.