A lame-duck bill that would make it harder to organize ballot drives is advancing in the Republican-controlled Legislature, with many groups, including the League of Women Voters, standing in opposition.

The Michigan House approved the legislation late last Wednesday on a 60-49 mostly party-line vote, as hundreds of activists (pictured) rallied at the Capitol for different causes. Among those voting in favor were State Representatives Hank Vaupel of Handy Township and Lana Theis of Brighton Township. HB 6595 would impose a geographic threshold for groups proposing constitutional amendments, initiated bills and referendums. They would be limited to collecting no more than 15% of their signatures from a single congressional district - a change from a 10% threshold passed earlier by a House committee. Critics say it’s another unconstitutional, lame-duck power grab that would burden the Secretary of State’s office and hamper the ability to pursue ballot drives. Proponents maintain it would bring transparency and accountability to the process.

The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Judy Karandjeff, President of the League of Women Voters of Michigan, attended the Committee hearing, saying the League opposes the bill and will be opposing the bill in the Senate. She tells WHMI there were more questions raised than answers but thinks the intent is definitely to decrease the power of the people to initiate legislation or constitutional amendments. Karandjeff says she’s not sure how it would all work; noting the language is unclear and there would be increased costs involved for SOS staff as well as verification issues. She doesn’t feel the bill is the will of the people or what’s written in the constitution.

This past November, all three ballot initiatives were approved by voters. The League supported Proposals 2 and 3. Proposal 2 aims to end gerrymandering and create a nonpartisan commission to be in charge of redrawing district lines while Proposal 3 aims to expand voter options and make it easier to vote. Karandjeff says they had a lot of members who collected signatures in both campaigns and the bill could really hinder volunteers from participating. She cited requirements for everyone who circulates a petition to file an affidavit with SOS, which could be cumbersome for volunteers. Karandjeff added it’s important that people follow what’s going on in lame duck and remember the impact that bills will have for the well-being of the state.

House Bill 6595 will be up for consideration in the GOP-controlled Senate this week, which is expected to vote before adjourning the Legislature's two-year session. Picture courtesy of Progress Michigan. (JM/JK)