Fair lending submits signatures, several petitions push to next cycle
Only one of about ten initiative petitions in circulation submitted signatures in time to appear on the November ballot.
A group working to cap service fees on payday loans, “Michiganders for Fair Lending,” said it turned in 405,625 signatures to the Secretary of State by Wednesday’s 5 p.m. deadline.
The group's treasurer, Dallas Lenear, said he’s confident those signatures will stand up to scrutiny.
“We selected a field team to manage the signature drive who — they have very, very sophisticated software that roots out any fraud and so they have been able to successfully run signature drives — hundreds of signature drives,” Lenear told reporters outside the Richard H. Austin building in Lansing.
To qualify for the ballot, petitions had to submit 340,047 valid signatures. The campaign said the extras turned in were in case the state rejects some due to irregularities or other problems.
According to a press release, the group had initially collected over 575,000 signatures as part of its buffer before internally deciding to only submit a fraction of them.
Another group, One Fair Wage, which is collecting signatures to raise Michigan’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, decided it wasn’t comfortable with its cushion.
Instead, it’s aiming to submit 600,000 signatures in the coming weeks in hopes of reaching the 2024 ballot.
Part of the caution involved news from last week that the Bureau of Elections discovered thousands of fraudulent signatures within the nominating petitions for several candidates running for office.
In some cases, those campaigns no longer qualified for the primary ballot after falling below the signature threshold for their respective offices.
One Fair Wage president and co-founder Saru Jayaraman said several campaigns were impacted by a group of paid circulators who faked signatures.
“There were a lot of independent contractors. There’s a group of them that, yes, almost every campaign used,” Jayaraman said. “We’ve all had to toss out signatures from that group. And we wanted to be super cautious. We didn’t know how much of that would be tossed and so we wanted to be careful.”
She said not every independent contractor was committing fraud, but validity rates were generally lower from that group than from a contracted organization and volunteers.
Jayaraman reasoned it would be all right if the wage increase was delayed in making the ballot to ensure signatures could stand up to inspection. Under the petition, the $15 per hour wage wouldn’t take full effect until 2027.
Another petition, Unlock Michigan II, to limit the state health department’s emergency powers, abandoned petition circulation altogether in lieu of a potential legislative success next term.
Meanwhile, an effort to create a tax-incentive-driven scholarship program to help parents pay for private school tuition is still gathering signatures in hopes of becoming law via the state Legislature once it files.
Fred Wszolek has been advising both efforts. He said it will end up being cheaper in the long run as they’ll be able to save on lawyers.
“We’re looking for lasting change here so we’re not going to be impatient and jump the gun and run the risk that a well-funded interest group is going to be able to disqualify some signatures,” Wszolek said.
Secure MI Vote, a petition to tighten Michigan’s voter ID laws, also dismissed Wednesday’s deadline in lieu of building a broader cushion.
“We do understand that by not filing today, that this issue will not be before the Michigan voters this fall. But it could be before the Legislature before the end of the year,” spokesperson Jamie Roe said during a press conference.
Michigan law gives the state leeway to take more time to go through petitions filed early for future election cycles.
When asked about a potential delay, both Roe and Wszolek said they believe the Bureau of Elections will act in a timely manner.