New: Appeals Court dismisses lawsuit to stop anti-Whitmer petition, appeal planned

By: - August 19, 2020 10:48 am

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives an update on COVID-19 | Gov. Whitmer office photo

A lawsuit challenging the Board of State Canvassers’ approval of a right-wing ballot petition drive was dismissed Monday by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

The “Keep Michigan Safe” committee, headed by former Republican state Sen. and U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz, with legal counsel from attorney and former Michigan Democratic Party chair Mark Brewer, had filed the first-of-its-kind lawsuit on July 14 against the Board of State Canvassers.

Brewer told the Advance Wednesday that the committee will be appealing the decision.

“The Court of Appeals did no analysis. They dismissed the case in a one-sentence order,” Brewer said. “They did not look at the merits of the complaint. And those are going to be among other things we’re going to be looking to the Supreme Court to more thoroughly review.”

The suit alleges that the Board of State Canvassers did not follow proper procedures in approving the “Unlock Michigan” petition, the most prominent ballot measure seeking to permanently limit Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers the first to gain approval from the board. Whitmer has issued dozens of executive orders to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including shutting down businesses and instituting a stay-home order, which Republican lawmakers and activists have opposed.

Board faces suit after approving ‘defective’ anti-Whitmer petition language

The Unlock Michigan petition specifically seeks to repeal one of the two long-established state laws Whitmer has used as the basis for her emergency orders to fight COVID-19.

The 1945 law in question, the Emergency Powers of Governor Act, allows the governor to declare a state of emergency without legislative approval and make the call as to when that emergency is over.

Unlock Michigan spokesperson Fred Wszolek, a longtime GOP consultant, celebrated the Court of Appeals decision.

“A unanimous panel of the Court of Appeals bounced Brewer’s nonsense complaint without even needing oral arguments,” Wszolek said in an email Wednesday.

“The Supreme Court will do the same. Full speed ahead for us. We’re closing in on the halfway point toward our goal of 500,000 valid signatures, and Brewer’s frivolous lawsuit isn’t even a speed bump.”

Board OKs petition language to yank governor’s emergency powers

Unlock Michigan has a window of 60 days within 180 days — roughly six months — to collect 340,047 required signatures.

If the group succeeds in collecting that number of valid signatures, the petition likely will be adopted by the GOP-led Legislature, bypassing Whitmer’s approval. In the off-chance that it is not adopted by the Legislature, it would go in front of voters on the 2022 general election ballot.

Unlock Michigan has support from several prominent Republicans, including state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and state Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Potterville), who announced earlier this month that he has COVID-19. 

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.