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Court dismisses challenge to Michigan’s 180-day timeframe for petition signature gathering

people signing petitions
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Michigan's 180-day limit on gathering petition signatures will remain unchanged.

That's after judges upheld a dismissal of a case challenging that timeframe this week. The appellate court cited jurisdictional concerns.

The issue arose when the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan took longer than 180 days to gather the necessary number of signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Attorney Matthew Erard represents a group who signed the committee’s petition outside of that 180-day window and want their signatures counted.

He said the rule sets an unreasonable barrier on grassroots campaigns.

“Without major financing, it’s almost impossible for a volunteer effort to collect the gargantuan number of signatures required within such a limited time period,” Erard said.

Separately, the committee had previously exhausted its own legal options for getting courts to consider whether the law violated the state constitution.

First, courts ruled there wasn’t enough substance to decide on the case before it had submitted its signatures. Then, nearly two years after initially starting, the campaign successfully sued to get the Bureau of Elections to accept the signatures it submitted for review.

After that review determined the majority signatures fell outside of that 180-day time span and didn’t count, the campaign asked the Supreme Court to invalidate the rule. The high court rejected the complaint.

Both the Court of Claims and Court of Appeals then refused to consider the merits of the law, saying they didn’t have the authority to decide on the issue.

Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan Campaign Director LuAnne Kozma described the challenge loop as a “black hole.”

“This artificial and, we believe, unconstitutional restriction on the right to petition for the four years between governor’s elections is a restriction that is actually undemocratic,” Kozma said Friday.

Kozma said the campaign will wait to see how the legal fight shakes out before restarting its signature collection efforts.

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