Faced with the prospect of citizens in Michigan having the audacity, the gall, the nerve, the chutzpah to have a voice in how our state is run, Republicans decided it was high time to make it harder to amend the constitution or to put citizen initiatives on the ballot in our fine state. Today the House passed S.B. 776, a bill that was rammed through the Senate in less than four weeks back in March.
Brian Dickerson at the Detroit Free Press spells out how this is little more than a big, sloppy wet kiss to the oil and gas industry with a little “don’t give the pot smokers anything to vote for” voter suppression thrown in for good measure:
Two term-limited Republican lawmakers are conspiring to make it a little harder for voters to circumvent the Legislature and its dark-money puppeteers. It’s a generous gesture toward oil and gas companies anxious to sabotage an anti-fracking initiative some Michigan environmentalists seek to place on the November election ballot.
State Sen. Dave Robertson (R-Grand Blanc) and state Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R-Alto) chair the elections committees in their respective chambers, and you might guess that their responsibility for oversight of the electoral process would make them especially sensitive to the rights of Michigan voters. But you would be guessing wrong. […]
Current Michigan law gives such petitioners 180 days to collect the requisite signatures, but requires the state to recognize older signatures if a petitioner can prove the signer is still a registered voter. SB 776 would abolish the procedure for rehabilitating such stale signatures, making it more difficult and expensive for petitioners to meet the ballot initiative requirements.
Who would want to make it harder for voters to place an initiative on the ballot?
Environmentalists say the effort is being spearheaded by Michigan’s gas and oil industry, which wants to head off a petition drive that would ask Michigan voters to ban the use of horizontal hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, and prohibit the storage and disposal of fracking waste products.
Indeed, four organizations associated with that industry — the Michigan Oil and Gas Association, the Michigan Chemistry Council, the Michigan Manufacturers Association and the American Petroleum Industry — provided the only testimony in support of SB 776 at a hearing held earlier this month shortly after Robertson introduced the bill (although Republicans are also interested in blocking a marijuana legalization initiative that threatens to draw young voters to the polls if it makes the November ballot).
The bill itself is short and to the point:
The signature on a petition that proposes an amendment to the constitution or is to initiate legislation, shall not be counted if the signature was made more than 180 days before the petition is filed with the office of the secretary of state.
It’s amazing how much voter suppression and silencing of the voice of citizens you can accomplish with just 43 words.
Oh, one more thing: The original bill was intended to take effect on January 1st of next year. The
House Senate Elections and Government Reform Committee took that out and gave it immediate effect. That means it applies to ballot drives happening for the November election. The same election where some anti-fracking and pro-weed proposals could potentially be on the ballot. See how that works out?
Patriarchal Republicans have your best interests in mind, friends. Now run along and don’t you worry yourselves about all this confusing political stuff. I think Dancing with the Stars might be on.