Michigan legislature may tighten rules for ballot question petitions

Mar 14, 2012

People who want to put a question on the ballot could soon have to get their petitions pre-approved by a government panel before they could gather signatures. That’s under a measure that cleared the state House today on a party-line vote.

The measure could force current petition drives to get state approval and then start over. The petition drives would guarantee union organizing rights, require disclosure of businesses’ political spending, and boost renewable energy requirements on utilities.

"This bill would not allow a ballot question to be evaluated on the content of the proposal," says Republican state Representative Sharon Tyler,   "Rather, it guarantees that all the efforts that a group puts into gathering signatures will not be wasted because of a technical mistake.”

Democratic state Representative Barb Byrum says the measure is an effort by Republicans to put a stop to ballot drives they don’t like.

 “There’s no evidence of a widespread problem. Quite honestly, it’s a solution in search of a problem. This changes the rules in the middle of the game. We have an election that’s just months away," says Byrum.

 Republicans say the measure will safeguard to voters that petitions they are asked to sign meet all the technical requirements of state law. The state already offers to inspect and approve petitions in advance, but it’s not required. 

Democrats will try to reconsider the measure tomorrow.