Nessel Declares Major Components Of Petition Changes Unconstitutional
On May 22, Michigan Attorney General announced that the key portion of the 2018 law establishing new requirements for groups wanting to put referendums, initiative petitions and constitutional amendments before voters are unconstitutional.
Gongwer reports that Nessel said the most contentious part of the bill, that no more than 15 percent of a group’s signatures come from a single U.S. House district, is unconstitutional. The language is tantamount to cutting voters out of the process by saying no more than 15 percent of a group’s signatures can come from one district.
Ms. Nessel also held that the requirement for paid signature-gatherers to file an affidavit with the state indicating they are being paid before circulating petitions is unconstitutional. It could lead to circulator harassment and impinge on free-speech rights, she said.
However, Ms. Nessel said some portions of PA 608 of 2018 are constitutional, such as having challenges of Board of State Canvassers decisions go straight to the Supreme court as well as false or fraudulent information provided by a circulator on a petition sheet leading to invalidation of all signatures on a petition sheet. Additionally, any form or content mistakes invalidate all signatures on the sheet, an addition by the law that also meets constitutional muster, Ms. Nessel said.
“Several senior staff contributed to the research, analysis and preparation of this opinion,” Ms. Nessel said in a statement. “Based on our review, this new law clearly violates the Constitution on several – but not all – fronts. With these issues resolved, Secretary Benson and her team can now go forward in the work they need to do in managing Michigan’s election process.”