AG: Lame-duck ballot drive law unconstitutional

LANSING (AP) — Michigan’s attorney general said Wednesday that a Republican-enacted law making it harder to put proposals on the statewide ballot is unconstitutional, declaring that lawmakers had no authority to impose a geographic limit a circulating petitions.

Democrat Dana Nessel’s opinion binds state officials unless it is reversed by a court. A legal fight is expected soon, because groups want clarity before launching ballot drives as soon as this summer.

The law was enacted in December’s postelection “lame-duck” session, and followed an unprecedented maneuver by GOP lawmakers and then-Gov. Rick Snyder to weaken minimum wage increases and paid sick time requirements that began as ballot initiatives. The law also came a month after voters passed three Democratic-backed proposals to legalize marijuana for recreational use, curtail the gerrymandering of congressional and legislative districts, and expand voting options.

The law imposes a geographic requirement on groups trying to gather hundreds of thousands of voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. No more than 15% of signatures can come from any one of Michigan’s 14 congressional districts, a restriction that prevents ballot committees from solely targeting the most heavily populated, more Democratic urban areas.

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