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Michiganders for Fair Lending to refocus efforts after Bureau of Elections report

A petition campaign in favor of capping payday lending rates is challenging a state decision to discard some of the campaign's signatures.
Gregory F. Maxwel
A petition campaign in favor of capping payday lending rates is challenging a state decision to discard some of the campaign's signatures.

It’s looking like a ballot question to cap service fees on payday loans did not qualify to go before Michigan voters this November, despite turning in about 50,000 more signatures than the campaign thought it needed.

A staff report from the state Bureau of Elections estimates the group Michiganders for Fair Lending fell short by 72,513 signatures.

Campaign spokesperson Josh Hovey said it’s unlikely the group can successfully challenge the findings at a Board of State Canvassers meeting scheduled for Thursday.

“We’re obviously extremely disappointed by this. You know, we put in a lot of hard work over the course of this year. But we are continuing to be dedicated to fighting for payday loan reform,” Hovey said.

Fair Lending had turned in over 390,000 signatures, well over the needed 340,047 threshold. But the Bureau of Elections invalidated a sizeable chunk of them, based on its analysis of a random sample set of signatures.

The campaign previously sued to include signatures on petitions the state had thrown out in its review.

The bureau’s report disputes that would have made much of a difference.

“Even if the Board ultimately found that every one of the 1,394 disputed signatures was actually valid, the total universe of signatures would increase from 382,633 to 384,025. This increase would not change the percentage of valid signatures in the sample anywhere near the level necessary to find that the subject of the Fair Lending petition has sufficient valid signatures to appear on the ballot,” the report read.

Hovey said the group will now focus on getting passage in the Legislature instead.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations with lawmakers. The payday lending industry is a powerful industry in this state and contributes a lot of money to people in the Legislature, but we have been working towards this through our coalition members for a number of years,” Hovey said.

Hovey added the group expanded its coalition by 35 members this year. He said it’s too soon to say whether it would try again with another ballot initiative in 2024 if lawmakers don’t act.

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