Voting rights group files lawsuit over ballot proposal

Sep 16, 2018 |

Published – August 29th, 2018 By John Counts Michigan News

LANSING, MI – A group trying to get a voting rights proposal on the November ballot is suing state election workers for not validating the initiative despite the group having the necessary number of signatures.

Promote the Vote filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Eastern District Court Tuesday claiming Michigan’s Secretary of State, Board of Canvassers and Bureau of Elections has violated the Constitution by not yet authorizing their ballot proposal, which would allow citizens to register on Election Day and allow no-reason absentee voting.

The suit claims the state agencies are in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendment.

The group collected 432,124 signatures during its petition drive, more than the 315,654 signatures necessary to get a proposal on the ballot, according to the suit. The Bureau of Elections, however, determined that there were insufficient valid signatures when it examined a sample of 500.

Kary Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan – one of the organizations backing the plan – said the lawsuit takes issue with the state’s process.

“The fear is that the process is insufficient, that it’s inconsistent with what other initiatives have received, and that it’s standard-less,” Moss said.

Promote the Vote tracked down 13 people out of the 24 signatures deemed invalid from the sample of 500 and had them sign affidavits, but that wasn’t enough to get the proposal over the necessary hurdles and onto the ballot, according to Moss.

And time is running out as the Bureau of Elections sorts through a much larger, 5,000-signature sample.

“If the Bureau continues to use the same standard-less and subjective practice in reviewing petition signatures in the second sample, it will continue to reject genuine valid signatures as it did in the canvass of the first sample,” the suit claims.

The Board of Canvassers is set to meet Friday on the matter, but Moss would like to see action sooner rather than later because the last day a proposal can be placed on the November ballot, Sept. 7, is looming.

Moss hopes the federal lawsuit, which seeks immediate action, will speed the process along.

“I think it could potentially expedite it,” she said. “We believe they should have certified on the first sample, which they can still do.”

Fred Woodhams, spokesman for the Secretary of State, said the lawsuit could have the opposite effect.

“We are surprised that this lawsuit was filed given how the Bureau of Elections has used the same process for reviewing petition signatures for decades,” he said. “The lawsuit will only delay work completing the larger sample and issuing a staff report, which is expected Friday. I would note that a larger sample also was taken for the Protecting Michigan Taxpayers petition earlier this year the same way as was done for the Promote the Vote petition. All petitions are treated equally.”