Michigan State Senate Democrats introduce legislation to outlaw lying on petitions

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FILE – In this March 5, 2020, file photo, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks at a news conference in Lansing, Mich. Michigan’s top election official said Tuesday, May, 19, 2020, that absentee ballot applications will be mailed to all 7.7 million registered voters for the August primary and November general election. Benson said the step — announced as the state continues to confront the coronavirus pandemic — ensures no one “has to to choose between their health and their right to vote.” (AP Photo/David Eggert, File)

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Michigan State Senate Democrats have introduced legislation that would outlaw petition drivers lying about their petitions when gathering signatures.

“Haven’t we had enough of the lies?” State Senator Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) said in a press release. “A person should be able to grow support for their proposal based on its own merit, not by misrepresenting what the petitions will do. We cannot continue to allow people, like those who worked on the Unlock Michigan campaign, to use lies and manipulation to erode the credibility of the democratic system for the rest of us.”

Last September, petition drivers for Unlock Michigan were caught giving out false information during petition drives, Senate Democrats said.

MI Attorney General Dana Nessel investigated the accusations but found that there were no criminal statutes regarding lying during petition drives.

The bill package being reintroduced by Senate Democrats to address this and other related matters include (via the Senate Democrats): 

  • Senate Bill 604, sponsored by Sen. Moss, would hold a ballot organization liable if an employed petition circulator or volunteer intentionally makes a false statement or misrepresentation concerning the contents, purpose, or effect of a petition. 
  • Senate Bill 605, sponsored by Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak), would authorize a voter who has signed an initiative, referendum, or recall petition to remove their name from the petition by filing a written request to do so with the appropriate county elections official up until the day the petition is filed.
  • Senate Bill 606, sponsored by Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-Lansing), would prohibit a group to pay or hire someone as a signature gatherer based on certain conditions, such as those convicted of crimes related to elections, signature petitions, fraud, and forgery.
  • Senate Bill 607, sponsored by Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit), would prohibit paying petition circulators by the signature.
  • Senate Bill 608, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), would reform current law so that if a voter signs a petition more than once, only the first signature is counted rather than disqualifying all the elector’s signatures, as well as removing the warning section of a petition stating that knowingly signing a petition more than once is a violation of Michigan election law.

“Voters need facts and truth in order to make informed decisions about participating in the democratic process, including signing petition initiatives,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “There must be regulations in place to ensure petition circulators are using the facts and truth — not misinformation or outright lies — to gather signatures, and penalties for those who attempt to deceive a voter into signing something they may not actually agree with.”

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