Rep. Moss, Sen. Hertel Propose Penalties for Deceptive Petitioning

Bill would prohibit petition circulators from misrepresenting contents
Friday, May 19, 2017

LANSING — House Democratic Whip Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) and state Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing) introduced legislation today that would amend Michigan Election Law to prohibit a petition circulator from lying or misrepresenting the contents of a petition for a ballot question, initiative, referendum, recall petition, and constitutional amendment. House Bill 4635 and Senate Bill 395, introduced in response to increasing reports of individuals gathering petition signatures under false pretenses, would establish punishment as a misdemeanor.

“Our democracy encourages citizens to call attention to issues that they care about through petition drives that can enact or change public policy, but that process must be an honest one,” Rep. Moss said. “This legislation will allow us to continue supporting and protecting this Constitutional right, while also ensuring that petitioners accurately reflect what is in their petitions. A person should be able to grow support for their cause based on its own merit, not by deceptively misrepresenting what the petitions will do.” 

In 2015, a Michigan news outlet reported that individuals were circulating petitions under the guise of promoting increased transparency in government when the petition language would actually repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law. Michigan would join other states that curb this use of deception as a petition-gathering tool by criminalizing the practice under HB 4635 and SB 395.

“We've reached the point where citizens' trust in their government to do the right thing is at an all-time low,” said Sen. Hertel. “Unfortunately, we've also seen claims that ballot initiatives — which are a last stand for direct democracy — are being treated with the same disrespect of citizens' wishes that cause their necessity in the first place. We need to make our government work for the people again, and ensuring correct representation on ballot initiatives is a good first step.”