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Elections bureau says anti-lockdown campaign has enough valid signatures

someone holding a clipboard while another person signs a petition
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The Michigan Bureau of Elections says a petition campaign to initiate a law to curtail the governor’s use of emergency powers has gathered the signatures it needs.

The bureau used a sample of petition signatures to estimate 460,358 of the names collected by Unlock Michigan are from registered voters. The campaign needs 340,047. The next step is for the bipartisan Michigan Board of State Canvassers to vote on certifying the petition signatures. The board is expected to meet Thursday.The Unlock Michigan initiative would repeal the law Whitmer used to issue COVID-19 executive orders early in the pandemic. The Michigan Supreme Court has struck down the law. Also, most of the orders have been lifted.

But Fred Wszolek with the Unlock Michigan campaign says the law should be erased from the books altogether.

“Bad ideas never really die in Lansing. They just take naps,” he said. “So we want to strike this law from the books for good, so that in some future crisis some future governor doesn’t abuse power to sort of rule by decree for an entire year the way this governor has.”

But, even if approved, the initiative faces legal challenges, including a claim that paid petition circulators were instructed to deceive voters to get them to sign.

“The Board of State Canvassers must disqualify every signature collected illegally and launch its own investigation of Unlock Michigan given multiple media reports on its illegal tactics and unsavory characters employed by this irresponsible effort,” said Mark Brewer, attorney for a competing organization, Keep Michigan Safe.

If the initiative is certified and survives legal challenges, the question would go to the Republican-controlled Legislature, which would almost certainly adopt it. A petition initiative cannot be vetoed by the governor.

If such an initiative is not adopted by the Legislature, the question goes on the ballot for voters to approve or reject.

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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