ballot drop box
(BridgeDetroit photo)

This post will be continuously updated throughout the 2022 election season. It was last updated Monday, May 16, with updated hyperlinks to petition language and more accurate signature collection status.

This story also appeared in Bridge Michigan

LANSING — More than a dozen proposals could appear on the November ballot in Michigan, seeking to transform everything from elections and school funding to abortion and the minimum wage.

Many of the measures are in their infancy and at least two are competing proposals. 

Can’t keep track? Bridge Michigan has compiled a primer of ballot proposals explaining what they would change, where they stand in the process, major funders and arguments surrounding them.

And keep in mind: Michigan law allows the Legislature to adopt petitions that gather enough signatures into law, so some of the measures may never even make it to voters, including ones to change health regulations, require ID to vote and create a tax credit scholarship program for private schools.  

We will update this tracker as ballot measures move through the process throughout the year.

First, a bit about the process:

How petitions work in Michigan:

Michigan citizens can file a petition with the state government to establish a new law, repeal a newly-enacted law through a referendum or amend the state’s constitution.

Groups pushing for new legislation or a constitutional amendment must submit a copy of their petition to the Secretary of State before circulating it. They may also submit to the state Board of Canvassers the format of the petition and a summary of the petition of no more than 100 words for approval.

Approval is not required for groups to gather signatures, but is recommended to minimize chances the petition is rejected later in the process. Groups can start collecting signatures to make the ballot as soon as they submit the petition to the Secretary of State. The number of valid signatures required for each petition type is based on the percentage of total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.

 The deadlines are:

  • Amend the state’s constitution: 5 p.m. July 11, 425,059 valid signatures (10 percent of last gubernatorial election).
  • Establish a new law: 5 p.m. June 1 at least 340,047 valid signatures (8 percent of last election).
  • Referendum to repeal a newly-enacted law: 90 days after the law is enacted, 212,530 valid signatures (5 percent).

The Board of Canvassers — a four-member panel in charge of tallying votes, certifying statewide elections and recounting ballots for state-level offices — will validate signatures for each petition. 

The state Legislature can then adopt or reject petitions seeking new laws within 40 days, a provision that is rare among states and allows lawmakers to circumvent the governor, who can’t veto the law. If lawmakers don’t adopt the measure, it goes on the ballot for the general election.

Constitutional amendments go onto the general election ballot, as will referendum petitions. Laws that are targeted for repeal are suspended pending the outcome of the election.

Here are the measures:

Voters for Transparency and Term Limits

The coalition’s plan would

  • amend the state constitution to reduce the maximum length a lawmaker can serve in the Legislature from 14 years to 12 years but would allow them to serve the full tenure in one chamber. Currently, lawmakers can serve up to six years in the Michigan House and eight years in the Senate.
  • The constitutional amendment would also require state lawmakers, the governor, the secretary of state and the state attorney general to disclose certain financial information, including: assets, all forms of income, purchases, sales or exchanges of property or security, liabilities, positions held outside their elected office, arrangements regarding future employment, continuing benefits from former employers other than the state and payments and gifts received.

Where it stands: On May 10, the Michigan Legislature voted to place the issue on the November ballot with minor changes to the language. It effectively allowed the group to skip the signature gathering process.

More on the group: Members of the bipartisan coalition include business and labor leaders as well as prominent politicians, such as: Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, a Democrat; former House Speaker Jase Bolger, a Republican; labor union Unite Here Local 24 President Nia Winston; former Michigan Chamber of Commerce CEO Rich Studley and former AFL-CIO president and member of the Wayne State Board of Governors Mark Gaffney.

What supporters say: Supporters say the measure would improve transparency among elected officials in statewide positions. They argue it would give legislators more time in one position to focus on serving their constituents but reduce the overall cap.

What opponents say: Nicolas Tomboulides, executive director of advocacy group U.S. Term Limits, called the measure “one of the worst scams I’ve seen” on social media, arguing the practical effect would be to prolong the terms of House and Senate members.

Major funders: The group received $157,500, including $75,000 from billionaire real-estate mogul Stephen Ross, principal owner of the Miami Dolphins. The rest came from unions, power companies, real estate businesses, insurers associations and a Consumers Energy-backed super PAC.


Secure MI Vote

The group’s proposal would:

  • Require voter ID for in-person voting and absentee ballot applications and eliminate an affidavit exemption currently allowed for in-person voting without ID.
  • Require partial Social Security numbers for voter registration
  • Require voters who don’t present ID in person to present it within six days after the election for the vote to be counted
  • Bar unsolicited absentee ballot applications 
  • Ban outside funding for elections and restrict mail-in ballots
  • Provide voters with hardships with free IDs funded by a $3 million state fund.

Where it stands: Collecting signatures. The Board of Canvassers has approved the petition format and summary. The Republican-led Legislature likely would adopt the measure if it collects enough signatures.

More on the group: The Lansing-based group shares an office address with its biggest funder — Michigan Guardians of Democracy, campaign filings show. 

That’s a newly formed dark-money group linked to Heather Lombardini, a GOP consultant. The dark money group, which is also helping to fund other GOP-linked petition drives, had given $1.4 million in money and the resources to the campaign through April 20. The group claims on its website “VOTER FRAUD IS REAL.” More than 250 state audits and both federal and state investigations found no evidence supporting widespread voter fraud.

What supporters say: Backers, mostly Republicans, say the measure would add safeguards to the election process and ensure there is no fraud.

What opponents say: Opponents, largely Democrats, say the initiative offers solutions to a problem that doesn’t exist and instead is intended to suppress the vote and undermine trust in elections.

Major funders: Besides Michigan Guardians of Democracy, which contributed most to the group’s funding, the Michigan Republican Party has also spent more than $157,000 on the effort, including legal expenses and mailings.


Promote the Vote 2022

The coalition of voting-rights groups seeks to amend the state constitution to:

  • Allow nine days of early voting
  • Publicly subsidize absentee ballots and a tracking system for the ballot location 
  • Continue to allow registered voters without a state ID to sign an affidavit attesting to their identity
  • Allow public sources and charities to fund local elections
  • Allow voters to register for absentee ballots for all future elections
  • Require ballot drop boxes for every 15,000 voters in a municipality
  • Establish that post-election audits can only be conducted by state and local officials

Where it stands: Collecting signatures. The Board of Canvassers has approved the revised format and summary of the petition.

More on the group: The coalition is backed by Promote the Vote Michigan, the ACLU of Michigan, League of Women Voters of Michigan, All Voting is Local, and Voters Not Politicians.  In 2018, Promote the Vote successfully pushed for similar voting reform measures, allowing for automatic voter registration, obtaining early and absentee ballots and casting straight-ticket votes. 

What supporters say: The coalition says the measure offers flexibility for voters to cast their ballots, make elections more accessible and ensure election security while protecting voter privacy

What opponents say: Opponents claim the measure would open the door to abuse. Republicans in general have been opposed to wide expansions of absentee voting because of security and cost concerns.

Major funders: As of April 20, the group had raised nearly $2.5 million, much of it from out of state. The largest contributor was the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a dark-money nonprofit based in Washington D.C. Another $125,000 came from movie director Steven Spielberg of California, along with $500,000 from Lynn Schusterman, a billionaire philanthropist based in Oklahoma.


Unlock Michigan II:

The measure would limit the length of emergency orders from state or local health officials to 28 days, unless extended by the state Legislature or local governments. The measure follows controversy and a lawsuit over Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s use of orders during the early months of the pandemic to close businesses and schools.

Where it stands: Collecting signatures. The Republican-led Legislature likely would adopt the measure if it collects enough signatures.

More on the group: The group last year successfully campaigned to limit emergency powers of Michigan governors. In July, the Legislature repealed a 1945 law that Whitmer had used to impose COVID-19 restrictions. 

What supporters say: Unlock Michigan’s spokesperson Fred Wszolek says it would “make sure no governor gets to govern by decree.” Republicans have expressed concerns that unilateral orders from the state’s executive violate the government’s separation of powers.

What opponents say: Democrats and health professionals warn the proposal could weaken the state’s response during emergencies and make it harder to keep the public safe. Another ballot committee — Public Health over Politicians — was formed in July to oppose the Republican-backed effort with funding from the Democratic Governors Association, Michigan Democratic Party and Michigan Nurses Association.

Major funders: Michigan Guardians of Democracy, a dark money nonprofit, had given $790,000 to Unlock Michigan II, through April 20.


Audit MI

The petition would force a “forensic audit” of the 2020 election and change how Michigan conducts audits after elections. It would set up an “audit board” of 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats selected by the Legislature, stripping auditing power from the Secretary of State and local election officials. The board would be allowed to raise both public and private funds and would not be required to disclose private donors. It would also establish a grand jury that could investigate findings.

Where it stands:  The Board of Canvassers has approved summary language but still needs to approve the petition’s form.

More on the group: The group was incorporated in December by Jon Paul Rutan, who is founder of the Hillsdale Justice Project and was once affiliated with the extremist group Oath Keepers. Other organizers include state House candidates Jon Rocha of Kalamazoo County.

What supporters say: Rocha says it promotes transparency and security in the election system.

What opponents say: The Michigan Democratic Party, Promote the Vote Michigan and others say the measure would sow doubt in the legitimacy of elections. Others say it would give too much power to an unelected group.

Major funders: There are no known ballot measure committees tied to Audit MI yet. The group is not required to disclose its donors due to its tax-exempt status. Rocha said the group is not required to form a committee if it has not raised or spent more than $500 under state law.


MI Right to Vote

The group is sponsoring two constitutional amendment proposals. One would end the state Legislature’s ability to enact law proposed through ballot measures, while the other would:

  • Require two weekends of in-person absentee voting
  • Require at least one drop-off box for absentee voting for every 15,000 registered voters.
  • Allow voters to receive absentee-ballot applications without requesting them
  • Require the postage of absentee applications and ballots to be prepaid
  • Allow voters to verify identity with their photo IDs or signatures
  • Allow officials to prepare for counting absentee ballots within the 7-day period before election day
  • Bar lawmakers from imposing “an undue burden on the right to vote”
  • Ban laws that restrict contributions to fund elections, record voters, or discriminate “against election challengers”
  • Prohibit requirements of voter ID for absentee voting or social security number to register to vote
  • Require the legislature to fund elections

Where it stands: Collecting signatures. The Board of Canvassers has approved the petition’s revised format and summary.

More on the group: The group has a P.O. Box in Ypsilanti, according to its website. Jan BenDor, women’s rights activist in Washtenaw County and state coordinator for nonprofit Michigan Election Reform Alliance, leads the team, according to the group’s website. Other members include Michigan attorney Fred Green, who the website says fought to end gerrymandering in Michigan, and Robert Sedler, a volunteer lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union and law professor at Wayne State University.

What supporters say: The group says its aims is to battle laws that make it harder for people to vote.

What opponents say: Defenders of the law that allows the Legislature to enact the will of the people who elect them. Since 1987, the Legislature has adopted 10 of 16 petitions sent to lawmakers.

Major funders: The group, which filed paperwork to form Jan. 20, had raised $9,728 though April 20, when the group reported contributions from 17 individuals.


Let MI Kids Learn

The group is pushing for two petitions: one would establish the Student Opportunity Scholarship program to pay for K-12 public or private school tuition and fees, home-schooling materials and online learning programs for those with financial needs; the other would allow taxpayers to claim a tax credit for contributions made to the scholarship program.

Where it stands: Collecting signatures. The Republican-led Legislature likely would adopt the measure if it collects enough signatures.

More on the group: More than 20 other states have similar programs. Former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is a backer of the effort. She has long championed school-choice programs before joining the Donald Trump administration in 2017.

What supporters say: Supporters say the program would open access to quality education for Michigan children.

What opponents say: Foes of the proposal say it could undermine public education and divert public funds into private schools. Education advocacy groups have formed a coalition — For MI Kids For Our Schools — to campaign against the measure.

Major funders: DeVos, along with family members, pumped a total $350,000 into the ballot measure committee account on Dec. 3, filings show. The group also received $800,000 from Get Families Back to Work, a group sharing the same office address as the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C., $615,000 from State Government Leadership Foundation, a D.C.-based conservative nonprofit, $25,000 from Lansing nonprofit Great Lakes Education Project’s advocacy arm, and $100,000 from Michigan Guardians of Democracy.  None of those groups are required to disclose their donors.


Raise the Wage MI

The measure would increase Michigan’s $9.87 minimum wage to $15 per hour over five years, starting at $11 in 2023, MLive reported

Where it stands: Collecting signatures. On Mar. 23, the Board of Canvassers approved the format of the petition after previously rejecting the format due to a font size concern. The Michigan Supreme Court on March 21 decided that concern is invalid.

More on the group: The committee’s treasurer, Chantel Watkins, is the lead organizer for Michigan One Fair Wage — the state chapter for national worker advocacy group One Fair Wage. Raise the Wage MI has raked in $1.35 million from the organization’s national advocacy arm, which is not required to disclose its donors. The group pushed for similar measures in 2018.

What supporters say: Supporters of minimum wage increases have said the move would lift up workers and small businesses especially as they suffer through the pandemic.

What opponents say: Groups like the Small Business Association of Michigan have opposed minimum wage increases,  arguing the could kill jobs and business owners should set market wages.

Major funders: One Fair Wage Action, a committee based in Massachusetts, donated $1.35 million in December.


Reproductive Freedom for All

The measure would amend the state Constitution to repeal make reproductive freedom a right, repealing a decades-old law that makes abortion a felony.  The law was nullified by Roe v. Wade in 1973 but would go into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the decision.

Where it stands: Collecting signatures. On Mar. 23, the Board of Canvassers approved the format of the petition after previously rejecting the format due to a font size concern. The Michigan Supreme Court on March 21 decided that concern is invalid.

More on the group: The coalition behind the measure consists of the ACLU of Michigan, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan and Michigan Voices, a progressive nonprofit.

What supporters say: The ACLU says the proposal would protect women’s choice to end pregnancy without “political interference.”

What opponents say: Anti-abortion organizations such as the Michigan Catholic Conference said the measure was a “sad commentary on the outsized and harmful role the abortion industry plays in our politics and our society.”

Major funders: The ACLU is the committee’s biggest funder. As of April 4, the national ACLU had donated $837,000 and the Michigan chapter had kicked in $596,000. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan spent more than $105,000 on polling, focus groups and legal services for the ballot committee.


Michiganders for Fair Lending

The proposal would cap interest rates for payday loans at 36 percent and allow the state attorney general to prosecute lenders who exceed that rate.

Where it stands: Collecting signatures. The Board of Canvassers approved the revised format and summary of the petition, and the group announced it would begin collecting signatures in late February.

More on the group: The committee is run by organizers of the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Lending, according to committee spokesperson Josh Hovey. The petition received support from groups including Habitat for Humanity of Michigan, Michigan Association of United Ways, Macomb County Veterans Services and Michigan League for Public Policy.

What supporters say: Habitat for Humanity of Michigan President Sandra Pearson said payday loans could put borrowers in worse financial shape than before, the Associated Press reported.

What opponents say: Advocates say payday loans are a lifeline to the needy and the law could force legitimate lenders out of business.

Funders:  As of March 18, the national ACLU had given the committee with $1.7 million in contributions and services, including staff support. The Sixteen Thirty Fund, a D.C.-based liberal dark money group, had given the committee $980,450 in contributions and services, including polling.


Michigan United

The proposal would repeal truth in sentencing laws that require those convicted of crimes to serve their entire minimum sentences. The measure would establish credits that reduce sentences for those who earn degrees or work in prison, among other provisions.

Where it stands: The Board of Canvassers has approved the group’s petition summary. The group told Bridge Michigan it is circulating petitions for signatures.

More on the group: The group hails itself as a coalition of “labor, business, social service and civil rights members.” Its board of directors include members of New American Leaders (a nonprofit recruiting candidates of color to run for office), United Food and Commercial Workers International (a union representing 1.3 million workers in North America) and Michigan Nurses Association, among others. Abdul El-Sayed, who placed second in the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary election, also sits on the board.

What supporters say: Criminal justice advocates say the current law poses a barrier to early release for incarcerated folks who demonstrate good behavior.

What opponents say: Eaton County Prosecutor Douglas Lloyd told Michigan Radio the current law ensures crime victims of their safety from harm.

Major funders: There are no known ballot measure committees connected to the group yet, according to campaign finance filings. 


Michigan Initiative for Community Healing

The measure would decriminalize the use and production of natural plants or mushrooms. It would also lower the penalties for possession of controlled substances from a felony to a misdemeanor. 

Where it stands: Collecting signatures. The Board of Canvassers approved the format and summary of the petition.

More on the group: Decriminalize Nature, a national psychedelics advocacy group, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy, which has chapters at four Michigan universities, are championing the effort, according to Marijuana Moment. Decriminalize Nature contributed $893 to Michigan Initiative for Community Healing.

What supporters say: Julie Barron, co-director of Decriminalize Nature Michigan, told PBS there’s a relationship between “humans and entheogenic plants [and] fungi” and that is a “human right.”

What opponents say: Opponents often fear the measure would lead to an uptick in drug-related crime, PBS reported. 

Major funders: As of April 20, the committee had raised roughly $21,000, including $10,000 from Blue Sage Health consulting, an Ann Arbor-based company that runs a “psychedelic therapy training program.”


DeCertify Michigan

The petition for initiated legislation proposes to “decertify” the 2020 presidential election, recall electors and require the Michigan Legislature to “legally establish the rightful president of the United States.” 

Where it stands: Circulating. Organizers filed their petition language with the Michigan Secretary of State on March 31, but elected not to seek pre-approval of their form or summary.

What supporters say: Organizer Robert Gelt believes the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump and has claimed that more evidence will soon be revealed to prove his theory. 

What opponents say: It’s far too late to “decertify” the election or recall electors, whose votes were already certified by Congress. The initiated legislation “would not be enforceable. It would not be possible. It would have zero effect,” said David Becker, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research.

Major funders: As of April 20, Gelt reported raising $6,505 from individuals. Gelt was the largest donor, giving $2,500 himself. Dan Hartman, executive director of Bear River Health in Boyne Falls, spent $2,347 for the committee to print petitions and pay filling fees.

 Bridge reporters Jonathan Oosting and Sergio Martinez-Beltran contributed. 

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for helping the citizens of Michigan to better understand the proposed changes to Michigan law and providing a clearinghouse to help voters evaluate the content of the proposals.

  2. By printing various viewpoints, this “Bridge Detroit” site does a very good job of clarifying the intent of various ongoing petition drives in Michigan.

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