WSW: Michigan's Initiative Process Called "Ripe For Reform"

Jun 18, 2018

Voting machine - file photo
Credit Wisconsin Public Radio

Citizens Research Council of Michigan president Eric Lupher says Michigan’s “lassiez-faire” approach to ballot issues presents a number of problems – a lack of trust in the process, less information for voters signing petitions, and more time in court settling legal challenges.


Lupher recently wrote about the process of voter initiated laws in Michigan, compared to other states. His blog post for the Citizens Research Council says Michigan stands alone in not having any review before petition signatures are collected. 

"Every other state that has this sort of citizen initiated process has an approval process before anybody goes out to start collecting signatures where you have to get sign off on this."

Lupher says other states evaluate proposals up front for possible legal pitfalls, include summaries and fiscal analysis of possible ballot questions. He says

“Every other state that has this sort of citizen initiated process has an approval process before anybody goes out to start collecting signatures where you have to get sign off on this.”

Lupher says Michigan’s system make the process more ripe for legal challenges.

Two high profile initiatives have run into trouble this year. A proposed amendment to the Michigan Constitution to make the Legislature part-time was scrapped after several false starts. The group started collecting petition signatures, then had to start the process over when the language on the petition was changed. Lupher says the part-time Legislature drive could have benefitted from a review before starting to collect petition signatures. A proposal to change Michigan’s redistricting process has been held by a court challenge. He says the legal issues surrounding the proposal by the group Voters Not Politicians should have been settled before this point.

Lupher says some reforms could help build more trust in the system and limit legal challenges. He says following the example of other states, would not limit the rights of Michigan citizens to initiate a new law.