Michigan court again vacates restrictions on ballot drives

·2 min read

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan appeals court on Friday again struck down major changes to the state's ballot drive law, including a limit on how many voter signatures can come from any one region.

The ruling was the latest in a lengthy legal fight that began after Republican lawmakers and then-Gov. Rick Snyder enacted the lame-duck law in late 2018 following voters' approval of three proposals to legalize marijuana for recreational use; curtail the gerrymandering of congressional and legislative districts; and expand voting options.

The law makes it harder to mount ballot initiatives. Major parts have never taken effect because of an opinion from Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel and court decisions.

In a 3-0 ruling, the court negated a 15% cap on signatures that can be used from any one of Michigan’s congressional districts, saying the state constitution includes no geographic distribution requirement.

The provision “establishes an unnecessary and unreasonable restraint on the constitutional right of the people to initiate laws,” Judge Amy Ronayne ​Krause wrote in an opinion joined by Judge Kirsten Frank Kelly. Judge Thomas Cameron concurred in the result.

The court also nullified requirements that paid circulators file an affidavit with the secretary of state and that each petition indicate whether a circulator is paid or a volunteer.

A different panel declared portions of the law unconstitutional in 2020, but the Michigan Supreme Court last December declared the case moot because one of the plaintiffs dropped a ballot drive due to the coronavirus pandemic. The League of Women Voters of Michigan and other group sued again in February.

To make the ballot in 2022, groups proposing a constitutional amendment must submit 425,000 valid signatures. The threshold is 340,000 for an initiative and 212,000 for a referendum.

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David Eggert, The Associated Press

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