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State board set to determine fate of constitutional amendment proposals

Board of State Canvassers 20220721.png
Michigan Department of State
The Michigan Board of State Canvassers meets on July 21, 2022.

Two petition campaigns face a critical test Wednesday as a state election panel determines whether they’ve gathered enough signatures to put a pair of proposed amendments to the Michigan Constitution on the November ballot.

One proposal would expand voting rights. That would include making it easier to vote by absentee ballot. The other would add an abortion-rights amendment to the constitution.

The Michigan Bureau of Elections determined last week that both campaigns collected well in excess of the 425,059 signatures of registered voters required to qualify for the ballot. But that recommendation still needs to be ratified by the bipartisan, four-person Michigan Board of State Canvassers.

Challenges have been filed against both petitions.

Fred Wszolek with the vote-no campaign against both efforts said the abortion rights petition should be rejected because it is riddled with typos and bad grammar.

“The form is flawed, therefore all of the signatures on the form are invalid,” he told Michigan Public Radio. “That’s been the standard. It’s the standard that ought to apply here.”

A big issue is the spacing between words. Wzolek said there are virtually no spaces, rendering some sections of the petition practically illegible.

Steven Leidel is an attorney for the abortion-rights petition drive. He said the assumption is voters knew what they were signing.

“Are there enough signatures on petitions to certify this question for the ballot? The answer to that is yes,” he told Michigan Public Radio.

At the moment, abortion remains legal in Michigan under a court order. But Darci McConnell with the Reproductive Freedom for All campaign said it’s critical to get a question on the November ballot so the issue isn’t left up to the courts.

“We need to be able to enshrine those protections for generations to come,” she said.

Any decision of the Board of State Canvassers must be by a majority and bipartisan vote. Any decision of the board — or a deadlock — can be appealed in court.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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