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Ballot initiative would close a loophole that lets the Michigan legislature evade governors' vetos

Posted at 6:28 PM, Feb 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-11 11:17:31-05

LANSING, Mich. — The MI Right to Vote campaign is looking to eliminate a legislative loophole that allows ballot initiatives to be signed into law without a vote from the people and to evade a governor's veto as well.

The language of the ballot initiative will go before the State Board of Canvassers on Friday.

“We have two proposals that work together. The first one will assure of a right to vote in the Michigan Constitution," said Jan Bendor, the campaign director for MI Right to Vote. "Our second proposal is to stop some of the loopholes and dirty tricks that have been going on as a result of actually a good thing, which is Michigan is one of only 16 states with the citizens having the right to amend their constitution by petition.”

Article two, section three of Michigan's constitution allows a ballot initiative that receives a number of signatures equal to eight percent of voters in the last gubernatorial election to be passed into law by the legislature "without change or amendment." Laws approved that way are immune to a veto by the governor.

“It never goes to the voters and it never goes to the governor," Bendor said. "It just gets passed into law. Not vetted, not discussed, not subject to the public debate. That shouldn’t happen.”

Robert Sedler, a professor at Wayne State University Law School who helped the MI Right to Vote campaign with the language of their petition, says that the legislature has used these loopholes in the past to accept petitions and then change them without input from the public, as it did in 2018 with proposals to raise the minimum wage and to require sick leave for workers.

If approved, the ballot initiative would prevent that.

"Basically, this clarifies and strengthens the existing provisions of the Constitution,” he said.

The campaign wants to see any petition that gathers enough signatures on the ballot for the people to vote.

“These are problems that have dogged us for years and we're kind of the laughing stock of the country," said Bendor. "When people see these loopholes, they go, 'What? How did that happen? How did people vote twice to stop the hunting of wolves and yet here we are about to have another wolf hunt?'"

After years of work, the MI Right to Vote campaign will be in front of the State Board of Canvassers on Friday for a judgment on the language included in the summary of the petition.

If approved, the group will begin collecting signatures to get the issue on the ballot.

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Elle Meyers

Elle Meyers

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Sarah Grimmer

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