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Marijuana campaign says court an option if petitions rejected

marijuana plant
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A medical marijuana clinic owner offered pot to customers who also registered to vote

There could be a legal showdown looming between state elections officials and the ballot campaign to legalize marijuana.

The MI Legalize campaign wants the state to count signatures that are more than 180 days old. Right now, those signatures are presumed to be outdated and invalid unless the campaign can prove the signer is still a registered voter. But that’s very hard to do without access to the state’s electronic voter database. It requires getting an affidavit from every voter, or looking at records kept by local clerks.

Republicans on the bipartisan Board of State Canvassers killed a proposal to allow that. Canvasser Norm Shinkle says that wouldn’t be fair prior to the June 1 deadline to turn in petitions.

“I don’t think we should change the rules in the middle of the game,” he said.

“I’m outraged,” said Jeff Hanks of MI Legalize. “If they’re not approved then, yeah, we’re headed to litigation and that’s a shame because this could all be avoided.”

Hanks says the board policy denies voters ballot access to redress grievances and violates the First Amendment.

Other petition drives, including one to ban a drilling process known as “fracking,” that are struggling to gather enough signatures under the current rules could join a legal effort to challenge the 180-day rule. 

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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