Michael Erwine

Michigan Petition Laws May Thwart Legalization Efforts

The push by advocates in Michigan to put a marijuana legalization initiative on November ballots is being hampered by a Board of State Canvassers stalemate, forcing the two public interest groups behind the measure to gather thousands of signatures by the June 1 deadline.

The stalemate focuses on petition signatures over 180 days old. One of the requirements for a signature to be considered valid dictates that the signee is a legitimate voter in the state – something that could change within 180 days. Under the current system, the board requires signatures over 180 days be confirmed by the petitioners via signed affidavits. MI Legalize, one of the groups behind the initiative, has 160,000 such signatures and asked the board to simplify the confirmation requirements.

Jeffrey Hank, MI Legalize Chairman, proposed matching the signatures in question with the Department of Elections’ qualified voter file, which he says would quickly and simply validate the signatures.

“We’ve spent almost a million dollars collecting over 300,000 signatures,” Hank said in the AMI Newswire report. “All they have to do is adopt the qualified voter list to verify those signatures over 180 days old, and the situation will be fine.”

The four-person Board of State Canvassers, comprised of two Republicans and two Democrats appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, has held a series of votes on the measure but the result has always been a 2-2 deadlock. The Board of Elections cannot give the groups the list without approval by the Canvassers Board.

Norm Shinkle, a Republican board member, says the public interest groups are asking him and his colleagues to bail them out.

“We’re here today because there are people in the field who have failed to gather their signatures in the allotted time that has been with us for 30 years,” he said in a Detroit News report. “We should not be changing the rules in the middle of the game.”

Hank says forcing them to track down 160,000 people to validate their signatures is “impossible” in just two weeks. His organization is planning a rally at the capitol in Lansing on Friday hoping to raise additional funds and add to his signature totals for the final drive.

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