Laws governing the initiative process in Michigan (archive)

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Citizens of Michigan can use the initiative process to amend their constitution and pass state laws. Michigan voters use a direct process in the case of constitutional amendments but an indirect process in the case of proposed laws.

Beginning the process

The Michigan Department of State’s Bureau of Elections offers its staff for consultations on designing the petition format of an initiative measure. Upon determining through the consultation process that an initiative or referendum petition is properly formatted, it is submitted to the Board of State Canvassers for approval as to form. While Michigan election law does not require Board approval of an initiative or referendum petition form, such approval greatly reduces the risk that signatures collected on the form will be ruled invalid due to formatting defects. The Board does not review or approve the actual language of the proposed initiative. When the Secretary of State certifies that enough valid signatures have been collected, the State Director of Elections writes the ballot question and summary. This ballot question and summary is submitted to the Board of Canvassers for review and changes. The Board of Canvassers also holds a public meeting so that proponents, opponents and the general public can comment on the language and ask for changes.

Although, the Board of Canvassers relies on the suggestions of proponents, they need not heed them. If proponents are unsatisfied with the final ballot language and think it’s unfair, they can take the Board of Canvassers to court to get the ballot language changed.

Features of law

Language submission

Initiative language can be submitted to the Michigan Secretary of State at any time.

Signature requirements

Main article: Michigan signature requirements

Michigan's signature requirements are tied to the total number of votes cast for the office of Governor at the last election. For statutes, signatures equaling 8 percent of this total are required. For amendments, 10 percent are required. For veto referendums, 5 percent are required.

Year Initiated amendment Initiated statute Veto referendum
2016 315,654 252,523 157,827
2014 322,609 258,087 161,304
2012 322,609 258,087 161,304
2010 382,129 305,703 191,065
2008 380,126 304,101 190,063

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Michigan Constitution, Article II, Section 9 & Article XII, Section 2

Distribution requirement

There is no geographic distribution requirement in Michigan.

Circulation period

Sponsors have 180 days to collect signatures. Michigan law says that proponents must submit signatures that have been gathered within a 180-day period and that the number of valid signatures must be at least equal to the required amount for the initiative to qualify for the ballot. The signatures can be gathered, however, within any 180-day period. Thus, proponents can gather signatures at any start point that they want – but they can only submit signatures gathered within the same 180-day period.

Residency requirements

Main article: Residency requirements for petition circulators

Circulators are required by statute to be residents. However, in 2009, a federal court declared a similar law for recall circulators in Michigan unconstitutional (Bogaert v. Land).

Signature filing deadline

Signatures for a proposed constitutional amendment must be filed at least 120 days prior to the election. For statutes, signatures must be submitted at least 10 days prior to the start of the state legislative session.

For 2010 ballot measures, the deadlines are:

Verification process

Signatures are verified using a random sampling process.

Single-subject rule

Main article: Single-subject rule

Although Michigan does not have a single-subject restriction, a proposed 2008 ballot initiative was removed from the ballot by a court prior to the election partly on the grounds that the initiative covered too many subjects at once.

Legislative tampering

Main article: Legislative tampering

The Michigan State Legislature can repeal and amend ballot initiatives by a 75% supermajority vote of each house or as otherwise provided by the initiative.

Proposed changes


Changes in 2011 to laws governing ballot measures

Bills that have or might be introduced in the 2011 session of the Michigan State Legislature include:


Changes in 2010 to laws governing ballot measures

The following proposals were made during the 2009-2010 session of the Michigan Legislature:

Campaign finance

Main article: Campaign finance requirements for Michigan ballot measures

Some of the notable features of Michigan's campaign finance laws are:

  • Bans all campaign contributions from people that have a ownership stake in a casino/gambling establishment.
  • Requires individuals who raise or spend $500 to support or defeat a referendum to register with the Michigan Secretary of State.
  • Requires all campaigns to use checks for all expenditures over $50.
  • Allows contributions from corporations and labor unions to support or oppose a referendum.

External links


The original version of this article was taken with permission from the I&R Institute