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Critics say petition campaign lying to get signatures

Petition gatherer holding a pen and clipboard speaks to another person

A voting rights group says a petition campaign to create new voting restrictions – including a photo ID requirement — is lying to get signatures.

Voters Not Politicians’ main complaint is based on a video that caught a petition circulator for the group Secure MI Vote telling a signer the initiative would put the question on the ballot.

But that’s not necessarily how the process would play out.

If the campaign collects enough signatures, the Republican-backed question would go first to the Republican-controlled Legislature, which could adopt it with no threat of a veto by Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer and no statewide vote.

“Be careful of what you’re being asked to sign by these petition circulators,” said Nancy Wang with Voters Not Politicians, noting it’s not illegal for paid circulators to say things that aren’t true to get signatures.

A petition campaign spokesman says it can’t police every interaction, but most people who signed a petition did so because they want to see the initiative enacted into law.

“We are fully confident that we are training our circulators right and they are doing their best job in presenting the facts to the voters,” said Jamie Roe with Secure MI Vote. “What an individual circulator’s done out there, I can’t say. We have literally thousands of circulators out all over the state.”

The paid circulator in the video was also gathering signatures for other initiatives and a gubernatorial candidate.

Petition forms are required to have a summary on the front that outlines the purpose of the initiative and what it would do. The back of the form must have the entirety of the proposal.

A summary of the Secure MI Vote was approved last year by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers. That helps inoculate the campaign from challenges that the summary is not accurate.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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