New proposal would affect Michigan ballot initiative rules

A new bill likely heading to the Michigan House would strengthen the 6-month window to collect signatures for state ballot measures, and may weaken initiative supporters' chances to make it to the ballot.

Senate Bill 776 was introduced on February 10 and passed by a 97-to-26 vote in the Senate on March 10.

The bill was referred to the Committee on Elections on March 10, where it awaits legislative action, but sources tell FOX 2 that it will likely head to the House soon.

Statewide ballot measure signatures are valid for 180 days, or six months. The law currently states a signature is "stale and void" if it was written more than 180 days before the initiative petition was filed with the Secretary of State. The proposed bill would change the law to state a signature "shall not be counted" if it was made more than 180 days before the petition was filed.

Under current law, ballot measure sponsors can refute a claim that a signature is "stale and void." By changing the wording of the law, the new bill would weaken sponsors' ability to argue the validity of some signatures.

"What we're doing is codifying it in law. It was set up by the Rules committee," said Sen. Mike Kowall (R-White Lake).

Rep. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) said groups collecting signatures should be allowed more time, adding a petition signature should be good beyond six months.

"I don't think that the Legislature is the only body that has good ideas in this state," Moss said. “I think we should allow citizens to have a say in this process, too."

Those asking to change policy to allow signatures to be valid for longer periods of time is include the group to legalize and tax recreational marijuana. 

"Quite frankly, there already is a window and this law has been working since 1986," Moss said. "There hasn’t been an uproar of complaints about how this law has been implemented in any other election cycle, up until now."

For more information about SB 776 and to view the full text, click here.