Bureau of Elections recommends abortion, voting rights initiatives get on the Nov. ballot

By: - August 25, 2022 3:06 pm

The Promote the Vote 2022 coalition announces during a Lansing press conference that it has filed nearly 670,000 signatures, July 11, 2022 | Laina G. Stebbins

The Bureau of Elections recommended Thursday that the Board of State Canvassers certify the Reproductive Freedom for All (RFFA) and the Promote the Vote constitutional amendments for the November ballot, but left the decision on challenges against these petitions hanging in the balance. 

After sampling 513 of the 752,288 signatures the campaign submitted in July, a record-breaking amount in Michigan, state officials found the RFFA campaign had submitted an estimated 596,379 valid signatures, according to a BOE report

The RFFA coalition, composed of Planned Parenthood of Michigan, the ACLU of Michigan, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan and Michigan Voices, which aims to amend the state Constitution to protect reproductive freedom and Michiganders’ right to make and carry out decisions relating to pregnancy, including abortion, birth control, prenatal care and childbirth, suprassed the 425,059 required valid signatures to get on the ballot. 

But approving the number of signatures is not the only hurdle for the RFFA initiative. Opponents of the petition, Citizens Supporting Michigan Women and Children, filed a challenge last week arguing that a spacing issue in the petition text is reason to reject the petition. 

Opponents of the Promote the Vote petition, Defend Your Vote, also filed a challenge last week, claiming that the petition does not spell out clearly what changes the petition would make to the Constitution. 

Hundreds rally at the state Capitol for the MI Body MI Choice event on Oct. 2, 2021 | Allison R. Donahue

The PTV measure would amend the state constitution to allow nine days of early voting, allow voters to register to cast absentee ballots for all future elections, require more ballot drop boxes and more.

According to the BOE report, RFFA provided an affidavit from the printer of the petition, stating that spaces are included in the full text of the proposed constitutional amendment. 

“The Michigan Election Law is silent on the amount of space that must be between letters and words in a petition,” the bureau wrote. “Staff makes no recommendation as to the merits of these legal arguments as they pertain to the substance of the petition. Courts in Michigan have found that the board’s duty is limited to determining whether the form of the petition substantially complies with the statutory requirements and whether there are sufficient signatures to warrant certification of the proposal.”

The Bureau sampled 568 of the 664,029 signatures filed by Promote the Vote and found that the coalition submitted more than enough valid signatures, but again did not make any recommendations on the merit of the challenge against Promote the Vote. 

“The challenge alleges not that a required element on the form … was wholly omitted, but rather that additional sections should have been included as part of this element under the Michigan Constitution,” the bureau wrote. “This challenge raises legal arguments pertaining to the meaning of the Michigan Constitution as interpreted by the Michigan Supreme Court.”

The Board of State Canvassers, which is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, is scheduled to meet on Wednesday and vote on whether the petitions should make the Nov. 8 ballot. 


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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue is a former Michigan Advance reporter who covered education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.