Voters Not Politicians could challenge ballot proposal limits

    A protestor demonstrates during a Dec. 12, 2018, rally in the Capitol | Ken Coleman
    Updated, 9:50 a.m., 1/9/19

    A litany of legislation signed during last month’s Lame Duck session is under scrutiny as groups consider a variety of challenges.

    Voters Not Politicians is the organization that got Proposal 2 passed in November aimed at ending the practice of gerrymandered legislative districts in Michigan. The group may mount some kind of challenge to an act signed by former Gov. Rick Snyder that would limit the ability to pass ballot measures by referendum.

    The legislation mandates that no more than 15 percent of signatures could come from a single congressional district and adds additional layers of reporting.

    Rick Snyder | Susan J. Demas

    “We’re exploring all the options. There’s nothing off the table,” said spokeswoman Elizabeth Battiste, noting that everything from a lawsuit to another referendum are being discussed.

    “Our volunteers are very fired up about this issue and they want to make sure that others have the same opportunity that they did to play an active role in their democracy,” Battiste told the Advance.

    Should Voters Not Politicians choose to go forward with another referendum, the group would be bound by the rules of Public Act 608, one of the highest-profile bills signed by Snyder just before leaving office.

    The bill was granted immediate effect. Battiste said the group has until March 28 to collect signatures for a referendum.*

    The law, sponsored by Rep. James Lower (R-Cedar Lake), found opposition from a broad coalition of groups ranging from the ACLU to Right to Life. Support for the maneuver largely came from business interests who mostly opposed the various ballot initiatives passed in the last election cycle, like Proposal 1 legalizing recreational marijuana and Proposal 3 expanding voting rights.

    Mark Brewer

    Additionally, Mark Brewer, an attorney representing the groups behind ballot initiatives to increase the minimum wage and mandate sick time for workers in the state, previously told the Advance that his clients could mount a legal challenge to legislative maneuvers that scaled back the passed referendums.

    New Attorney General Dana Nessel has also announced plans to review deal inked by Snyder for a new tunnel for the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

    The flurry of GOP actions after the election has activists and volunteers around the state looking to fight back, said Battiste.

    “Our volunteers are really committed to the idea that citizens have the right to petition their government for change and they’re really discouraged by attempts to thwart that right,” Battiste said.

    * This story has been updated to clarify the procedure for a new ballot initiative.

    Nick Manes
    Nick Manes covers West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels. His byline also has appeared in Route Fifty and The Daily Beast. When not reporting around the state or furiously tweeting, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Krista, biking around his hometown of Grand Rapids and torturing himself rooting for the Detroit Lions.

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