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New legislation would penalize petition circulators for misleading signers

person writing on paper

A package of bills in the Michigan House would punish petition circulators who mislead or lie to petition signers about their causes.

HB 5208-5214would make it a misdemeanor for circulators, or the organizations work for, to make false statements in order to get signatures.

State Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, is a bill sponsor. He says one of the most important things you can do before signing a petition is to read it.

"There needs to be an awareness that the person talking to you might not necessarily be putting their cause out there with all honesty and truthfulness," he said.

The bills would also ban the practice of paying circulators per signature, instead paying them an hourly rate.

"If they’re going to try and get one more signature or one more signature because they know there’s a monetary incentive for each signature that’s on their page, they might tell a lie in order to get that," Moss said.

Under the legislation, if a petition signer feels they were mislead, they would be able to submit a request to the Secretary of State to have their signature removed from the petition.

Moss says dishonest petitioning may make electors uncomfortable participating in their democracy.

"It causes damage to that process and it makes it a broken process," he said.

Paulette is a digital media reporter and producer for Michigan Radio. She started as a newsroom intern at the station in 2014 and has taken on various roles in that time, including filling in as an on-air host.