Minni’s Morning Coffee: Ballot Petition Laws Too Lax?

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When Governor Rick Snyder addressed a group of corporate business leaders Monday morning at the Detroit Athletic Club he shared his vision and accomplishments for reinventing Michigan.

One of the reforms Snyder said he plans to push is firmer restriction on ballot petitioners.

“There is a good reform opportunity with respect to paid circulators,” Snyder said at the DHR International corporate leadership breakfast.

Currently, Michigan does not ban pay-per-signature, which allows petition circulators to be paid for every signature collected offering petitioners monetary incentive to get the most signatures. Pay-per-signature something that Snyder said is a concern and suggested said hourly pay for should be mandated.

Between 2008 and 2009, several states—including Colorado, Montana and Nebraska—made it illegal to compensate petition circulators based on how many signatures they are able to collect on petitions.

But in Colorado a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in June 2010 against the new Colorado law (HB 1326) in a lawsuit that says the law’s ban on pay-per-signature violates the U.S. Constitution. The case is still in active litigation according to Balletpedia.org, a non-profit effort to inform the public on political issues and laws.

Snyder’s biggest beef with Michigan’s ballot petitioning rules is the fact Michigan does not require paid petition circulators disclose that they are being paid to collect signatures, or who paid them.  In other states petitioners have to wear a badge that ways whether they are a volunteer or paid to collect signatures for a ballot measure.

Many deep-pocketed groups can sponsor a ballot measure and pay petition circulators without disclosing if they are doing this out of their passion for the measure or for a paycheck.

“People don’t get the full scoop before they sign,” Snyder said, adding that he only supports one ballot proposal (Proposal 1) of the six that will appear on the ballot in Nov. He said six proposals seem like too many. “We needed more disclosure of where money was coming from for circulators.”

Another law Snyder said he wants to push for is one that mandates where petition circulators can collect signatures for a given measure. Currently, Michigan does not have a distribution requirement. Any amount of the required signatures for a ballot measure may be collected in anywhere in the state and is not forced to pull from different areas.

“We need to look at where people are getting these signatures,” he said noting that they should not all come from one area known to favor a certain sway of the proposed initiative seeking signatures.

The flood of ballot proposals this year has been unprecedented with six statewide ballot proposals set for the Nov. election. And that’s not counting local municipalities’ proposals.

Why so many proposals? Snyder has an idea.

“It’s a reaction to the reinvention of Michigan,” Snyder said. “People don’t like change.”

Be sure to stay informed about Michigan ballot initiatives and more, check out Mlive’s Michigan voter guide to help prepare for the long ballot that awaits voters on Election Day. 

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