LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s attorney general said Wednesday that a Republican-enacted law making it harder to put proposals on the ballot is unconstitutional.
Democrat Dana Nessel’s opinion binds state officials unless it is reversed by a court. A legal fight is expected.
The law was enacted in December’s post-election 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 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 could prevent ballot committees from solely targeting the most heavily populated, more Democratic urban areas.
Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson sought the opinion.
“I am proud that, for more than a century, Michiganders have exercised core constitutional rights in the circulation of initiative, referendum and constitutional amendment petitions,” Benson said in January. “I am deeply concerned that the new restrictions enacted late last year in Public Act 608 of 2018 may potentially violate those constitutional rights by adding new burdens and restrictions on the process.”
Republicans, who still control the Legislature while Democrat Gretchen Whitmer is governor, approved the business-backed law in December — 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 sponsor, Rep. Jim Lower, has said the law is designed to ensure voters have more input on ballot proposals before they go to a vote, since many measures are funded by out-of-state interests.