Marijuana advocates have sued the state of Michigan over a decision by the State Board of Canvassers to rule 137,000 signatures on their petition to get a legalization question on the November ballot invalid, according to a Detroit Free Press report.
The Board ruled the signatures were “stale,” meaning they were collected outside of the 180-day window available for petitioners to gather signatures.
The Board of Canvassers, Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, and State Elections Director Christopher Thomas are identified as defendants in the lawsuit.
Lansing attorney and MI Legalize Chairman Jeffrey Hank filed the lawsuit with Grosse Pointe Park lawyer Thomas LaVigne, claiming the group has “a litany of state and constitutional claims.”
“This isn’t just about marijuana,” Hank said in the report. “We’re trying to preserve the right of grassroots groups to get a question on the ballot.”
MI Legalize submitted more than 354,000 signatures to state officials, well over the 253,000 required for the initiative to appear on the ballot. With the Board voting 4-0 to invalidate 137,000 of those signatures, the group fell short – only about 217,000 signatures were considered valid.
On June 8, just “minutes” after the board voted against the group, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law codifying the 180-day window.
“Establishing reasonable time limits on when signatures can be collected helps ensure the issues that make the ballot are the ones that matter most to Michiganders,” Snyder said in a release after signing the legislation.
The lawsuit, filed in Michigan’s Court of Claims, seeks “a minimum of at least four immediate rulings and one outcome – to place the MI Legalize proposal on the ballot of the next general election.”
The action also seeks monetary damages of $1.1 million plus punitive relief and other costs unless officials check the signatures against voter records, which MI Legalize asserts, will prove their validity.