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Court rules on ballot initiatives law

people signing petitions
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The state cannot restrict the number of signatures a ballot initiative can get from a single Congressional district.

That is part of the ruling out of the Court of Claims Friday. Several groups – including the League of Women Voters and the Republican-led state House and Senate – sued the Secretary of State, though hoping for different outcomes. This is over a law signed last year that adds restrictions to how people can get signatures for ballot initiatives.

Mark Brewer is an attorney with The League of Women Voters.

“I think it’s a great victory. It is a great victory for the voters of this state, for access to the ballot, for the right to petition,” Brewer said.

The court also ruled that a provision requiring petition circulators to check a box on their petition sheets indicating whether they are paid or not is unconstitutional. But the judge did uphold other provisions of the law. Brewer said the League is not sure yet if it will appeal the decision.

Attorney General Dana Nessel had previously issued an opinion saying that portions of the law – including the signature cap requirement – were unconstitutional.

“As we’ve said previously, both the Michigan Constitution and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protect Michigan citizens’ right to amend our laws or state constitution through direct citizen petitions,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s spokesman, Shawn Starkey. “We are glad that today’s ruling upheld key portions of the attorney general’s opinion. As directed by the judge, we will continue to follow the guidelines of the entire attorney general’s opinion while the expected appeals proceed through court.”

Supporters of the original law say it ensures that people from all over the state are a part of ballot proposals and increases transparency.

The Republican-led state House and Senate were plaintiffs in the case – they wanted the entire law upheld. But the judge also said that they could not be a part of the case anymore because they lack standing.

A spokeswoman for the state Senate says the body will likely appeal.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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