Laws governing the initiative process in Michigan (archive)
- 1 Beginning the process
- 2 Features of law
- 3 Proposed changes
- 4 Campaign finance
- 5 External links
- 6 References
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
Initiative language can be submitted to the Michigan Secretary of State at any time.
- 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|
There is no geographic distribution requirement in Michigan.
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.
- 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:
Signatures are verified using a random sampling process.
- 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.
- Main article: Legislative tampering
Bills that have or might be introduced in the 2011 session of the Michigan State Legislature include:
The following proposals were made during the 2009-2010 session of the Michigan Legislature:
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.
- Michigan Initiative Guidelines (dead link)
- Michigan Constitution and Statutory Provisions
- Michigan Recall Law and Practice
The original version of this article was taken with permission from the I&R Institute