House, Senate bills to punish circulators of deceptive petitioning


In an effort to crackdown on petition circulators misrepresenting or lying about the contents of their efforts, Democrats in the Michigan House and Senate proposed bills to punish offenders last week.

House Democratic Whip Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) and state Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing) proposed prohibitions on lying or misrepresenting the contents of a petition for a ballot question, initiative, referendum, recall petition and constitutional amendment. Violation of this would be punished as a misdemeanor. Both chambers’ efforts would amend existing Michigan Election Law.

“We’ve reached the point where citizens’ trust in their government to do the right thing is at an all-time low,” Hertel said. “Unfortunately, we’ve also seen claims that ballot initiatives — which are a last stand for direct democracy — are being treated with the same disrespect of citizens’ wishes that cause their necessity in the first place. We need to make our government work for the people again, and ensuring correct representation on ballot initiatives is a good first step.”

In promoting the legislation, Democrats pointed to a 2015 incident wherein it was reported that petitioners supposedly promoting a drive for increased transparency in government were actually working to repeal Michigan’s wage law.

“Our democracy encourages citizens to call attention to issues that they care about through petition drives that can enact or change public policy, but that process must be an honest one,” Moss said. “This legislation will allow us to continue supporting and protecting this Constitutional right, while also ensuring that petitioners accurately reflect what is in their petitions. A person should be able to grow support for their cause based on its own merit, not by deceptively misrepresenting what the petitions will do.”