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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Groups file suit to try to overturn law that restricts signatures for petition drives

people signing petitions
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Pro-voting rights groups are suing to try to strike down a 2018 law they argue makes it harder to gather signatures for a citizen petition drive.

Lonnie Scott is head of Progress Michigan. The group supports an initiative to limit the political influence of lobbyists, and another initiative to change Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act to include the Legislature and governor.

Another group that's suing wants to require public disclosure of donations to political campaigns. The  Michigan League of Women Voters has also joined the lawsuit as a plaintiff.

Public Act 608, which was passed by Republicans in the lame duck period of 2018, and signed by then-Republican Governor Rick Snyder, sets a 15% cap on how many signatures can be submitted from any one of Michigan's 14 congressional districts.

Scott says that cap would dramatically increase the cost and difficulty of getting enough signatures to place a question on the ballot. And he says it would violate the rights of people who want to sign the petition, but can't, because 15% of people in their congressional district have already signed.

"We believe fundamentally that the restrictions were put in place to limit the people's ability to enact legislation via referendum or ballot initiative," says Scott. "And that a lot of things that are contained in the law are just misguided and unconstitutional."

An opinion by Michigan Attorney Dana Nessel says portions of the law are in fact unconstitutional. 

But Scott says Republicans may still try to challenge ballot drives if the law remains on the books. 

Republicans in the state Legislature have not yet commented on the lawsuit.

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