Ballot petition basics: Michigan 2018

Things to keep in mind when being asked to sign a ballot petition in Michigan.

The Michigan Board of Canvassers held their August meeting last week and approved three more petitions for circulation, meaning three more groups can now begin collecting signatures in an effort to get their proposals on the 2018 ballot in Michigan. This brings the number of groups who have filed petition forms with the Board of Canvassers to eight, with some of them having received approval as to form, and others having not yet received approval. To learn more about how initiated legislation ends up on the ballot, read “How does a ballot proposal get on the ballot?”.

With a significant number of ballot initiatives active this year, working towards getting on the 2018 ballot, there are some important things to remember when you are being asked to sign a petition for a ballot initiative:

  1. Read the petition before you sign. Canvassers walking the streets collecting signatures can tell you just about anything they want to encourage you to sign a petition. There have been reports of some canvassers being misleading in describing the purpose of certain petitions recently. Take a second to read the petition and make sure you understand it before you sign.
  2. Online signatures do not count. In this online age, there are many online petitions floating around. Most of them are hoping to gain signatures to make some sort of statement. None of them are valid for initiated legislation in Michigan. If you sign an online petition, it does not count as a valid signature on a petition. You must sign a valid paper petition.
  3. It takes A LOT of signatures to get on the ballot. Initiated laws need 252,523 signatures to get on the ballot. Proposed constitutional amendments require 316,654 signatures. To make this even tougher to achieve, all signatures must be collected within the 180 days prior to filing the petition with the Secretary of State.
  4. A valid petition will look something like this (but without the word “Sample”):

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So what petitions should you be on the lookout for? So far, the Board of Canvassers has approved six petitions as to form. Approval as to form simply means the petition meets formatting requirements and the language is pre-approved. These include:

Note that it is not always clear from the name what the intent of the petition is. Again, read the petition before you sign it. Some of these groups are actively collecting signatures, such as the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which reports that it has over 200,000 signatures so far. Others, like MI Time to Care, have had their petition approved, but not yet begun collecting signatures.

Those at Michigan State University Extension who focus on Government and Public Policy provide various training programs, which are available to be presented in your county. Contact your local Government and Public Policy educator for more information. 

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