Michigan judge strikes down state’s ballot drive law

Michigan
voter booths

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan judge on Friday struck down a new requirement that makes it harder to initiate ballot drives by limiting the number of signatures that can be counted from a single congressional district.

Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens ruled that the plain language of the state constitution does not support the imposition of a geographic requirement.

The law was approved by the Republican-led Legislature and then-Gov. Rick Snyder in last year’s lame-duck session. It says no more than 15% of petition signatures can be counted from any one of the state’s 14 congressional districts. There is no geographic limit in the state constitution.

A lawsuit was filed in May by the League of Women Voters of Michigan and others who said lawmakers cannot amend the constitution with legislation and contended the 15% requirement would dramatically increase the cost and difficulty of mounting a successful citizen petition campaign.

The law is backed by business groups and GOP lawmakers who say it adds transparency and accountability to the petition-gathering process and ensures statewide input earlier on ballot drives funded by out-of-state interests.

Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel previously said the 15% limit and other portions of the law are unconstitutional. State election officials are complying with her opinion, but appellate courts will have the final say.

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