The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, November 10, 2017

Dem group pushes petition reform in Michigan

By The Building Tradesman



LANSING — State Rep. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) is leading a group of representatives who have introduced a seven-bill package to reform petition circulation legislation in the state. The bills are a response to complaints across the state that a number of petition groups are using varying degrees of dishonesty when attempting to gather signatures.

The prime example is the petition that was circulated this year to repeal the Michigan Prevailing Wage Act- signature-seekers have falsely claimed just about anything to get people to sign - that the petition was to lower taxes, increase wages, or was part of the campaign to legalize marijuana.

“The use of petitions, referendums and ballot initiatives is an important component of the democratic process, but the process must be done in a fair and honest manner,” said Moss on Oct. 31. “We cannot continue to allow bad actors to use lies and manipulation to erode the credibility of the system for the rest of us.”
 
Current Michigan law does not treat manipulative tactics for signature gathering as criminal, allowing false information in petition circulation to flourish. Elements of the seven-bill package (House Bills 5208-5214) include:
*Authorizing a voter who has signed an initiative, referendum or recall petition to remove their name by filing a written request with county elections officials prior to the day of filing

*Prohibiting the hiring of a signature gatherer already convicted of crimes related to election or petition fraud and forgery.

*Prohibiting paying circulators by the signature.

*Holding the organization a petition circulator works for liable if the circulator makes a false or misrepresentative statement concerning the petition

*Requiring circulators to wear a badge disclosing if they are paid or volunteering.

*Requiring entities paying petition circulators to register with the state and keep a log of all paid petition circulators.

*Allowing only the first petition signature to be counted if someone signs the same petition more than once.

“Distrust in government is at an all-time high, and we must penalize those who are actively participating in making it untrustworthy,” said Moss. “This bill package will ensure that the voice of the people can truly be heard, and that the will of the people is truly carried out.”