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Lawmakers file lawsuit challenging Nessel opinion on ballot petition law

people in voting booths
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The Republican leadership in the state House and Senate has filed a challenge to a recent opinion by Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel.

The law in question makes it more difficult to put a measure on the state’s ballot. The law was enacted during a hectic lame duck session last year.

In May, Nessel issued a formal opinion that said that portions of the law were unconstitutional – in particular, a portion that limits the number of signatures a measure can have from a given geographic area.

Supporters of the law say it increases transparency and makes sure that a wide range of people sign off on a ballot measure.

State Representative Jim Lower (R-Greenville) sponsored the original bill that became law. He says there’s a lot of ambiguity over how much weight the AG’s opinion really has.

“I think that there should be a final determination as soon as possible on whether or not this law is going to be implemented. I think it should be implemented,” says Lower.

The law requires petition circulators to clearly indicate if they are paid or volunteers.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says the law should be struck down. She asked for the attorney general’s opinion.

As someone who is responsible for enforcing and implementing all of those legal protections, I look forward to seeing how this plays out, and remain committed to ensuring the constitutional protections of our citizens are secure,” says Benson.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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