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Michigan Supreme Court reaffirms Board of State Canvassers must certify Unlock Michigan petition

Michigan Supreme Court
Courtesy of the MI Supreme Court
Michigan Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court has reaffirmed that the Board of State Canvassers must certify a ballot question to repeal the 1945 Emergency Powers of Governor Act, because enough valid signatures were submitted.

That's the act Governor Gretchen Whitmer relied on to declare an extended state of emergency during the pandemic.

Two members of the Board had voted not to certify.  They said they wanted to investigate problems with how signatures were gathered by the ballot drive's organizer, Unlock Michigan.

But the Supreme Court says the Board does not have the authority to conduct investigations - it can only determine if enough valid signatures were collected.

Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson filed a brief supporting the position of Unlock Michigan.  She agreed that the Board of State Canvassers only has the authority to review the sufficiency and validity of signatures submitted, and not to investigate the manner in which those signatures were collected.

A group called Keep Michigan Safe filed a motion to intervene and a request for reconsideration after the Supreme Court's earlier decision.  

In a statement, the group says:

“We’re extremely disappointed by this decision which ignores Unlock Michigan’s illegal conduct and eradicates the state’s ability to keep people safe during emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic and outbreaks of infectious diseases like anthrax, Legionnaires’, hepatitis and tuberculosis. Unlock Michigan is a brazen political power grab that will put people’s lives at risk and undermine our economy by hamstringing leaders trying to act during public health emergencies for generations to come.”

Unlock Michigan organizers note that there is still a law on the books that allows a governor to declare a public health emergency for 28 days. After the 28 days, that governor must obtain legislative consent to continue the state of emergency.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also retains the authority to declare a public health emergency, under a separate law, and individual counties can also declare public health emergencies.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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