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LGBT rights initiative pushing for certification

Hand holding rainbow LGBTQ flag
Stavrialena Gontzou

A state board will meet Monday to determine whether an initiative to expand Michigan’s civil rights law to include LGBTQ protections will move ahead. The Michigan Bureau of Elections says the petition drive failed to get enough signatures. The Fair and Equal Michigan campaign says the bureau is excluding signatures that should be counted.

The elections bureau used a random sample to determine the campaign fell short of the 340,047 signatures of registered voters required to go forward. But it’s up to the bipartisan Michigan Board of State Canvassers to decide what happens next.

The board has three options:

- One is to go with the Bureau of Elections staff report, and find that Fair and Equal Michigan failed to gather enough signatures. That decision would likely be challenged before the Michigan Court of Appeals.

- Or the board could agree to delay a decision and have the Bureau of Elections draw a larger sample size, and make a new determination at a later meeting.

- The board could also reject the Bureau of Elections staff report and find that Fair and Equal Michigan did gather enough signatures and send the initiative to the Legislature. If the Legislature does not adopt the initiative, the question goes on the November 2022 ballot for voters to approve or reject.

The canvassers board is made up of two Republicans and two Democrats and it takes a majority with at least one vote from each party to approve any action.

Fair and Equal Michigan election lawyer Steven Liedel says the elections bureau’s finding is flawed for several reasons, including confusion caused by the unusual circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He says the board should order a new, larger signature sample to be pulled, or simply approve the question to go to the Legislature or on the 2022 ballot “…so in the workplace, in schools, in institutions of higher education and in public accommodations, folks would not be discriminated against based on who they love or how they express their sexuality.”

Liedel acknowledges the laws surrounding petitions drives can be confusing, but he says the Board of State Canvassers is supposed to err on the side of letting an initiative go to voters when there’s a question. He says the campaign will go to court if the board votes against certification.

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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