Advance Notice: Briefs

Unlock Michigan submits signatures to repeal Whitmer’s emergency powers as investigation looms

By: - October 2, 2020 11:59 am

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

A campaign aiming to repeal the emergency powers-granting 1945 law Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has used throughout the COVID-19 pandemic said Friday they had collected and turned into the state 539,384 petition signatures.

Unlock Michigan went ahead with the event dropping off signatures hours after President Trump and first lady Melania Trump revealed they tested positive for COVID-19.

The GOP-linked group says it’s exceeded the 340,047 valid signatures of registered Michigan voters it needed to gather within 180 days to begin the process of repealing the Emergency Powers of Governor Act (EPGA), something Whitmer has invoked several times to declare states of emergency and issue executive orders to manage the COVID-19 crisis.

If the Michigan Bureau of Elections certifies enough of those signatures, the measure goes to the GOP-led state Legislature for approval. The governor does not have veto power in this case.

There is a chance this does not go to the Legislature this term. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office says it usually takes 105 days to review petitions, which would be after the term ends on Dec. 31. The measure would go before voters if the state Legislature passes on it.

Unlock Michigan spokesperson Fred Wszolek has indicated the group will file a lawsuit against the Michigan Secretary of State if the state delays reviewing signatures. 

“Today we submit these petitions with solemn reverence and a high sense of responsibility,” reads a post on Unlock Michigan’s Facebook page. “Thanks for your patience as we have prepared these precious 539,384 signatures for delivery. Our team has worked hard. But we are proud to serve Michigan in this way.”

The validity of the petition signatures has been called into scrutiny.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Monday said her office will conduct a criminal investigation into Unlock Michigan’s signature-gathering tactics, days after she was asked to do so by Michigan elections lawyer John Pirich and by the League of Women Voters of Michigan (LWV), a nonpartisan voter education group.

Last month, the Detroit Free Press also reported on a secret recording of Unlock Michigan trainer Erik Tisinger, who was caught telling signature collectors to use illicit methods to obtain more signatures. 

Nessel on Monday also said her office received additional complaints from residents who said they were duped by Unlock Michigan petition circulators.

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C.J. Moore
C.J. Moore

C.J. Moore covers the environment and the Capitol. She previously worked at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland as a public affairs staff science writer. She also previously covered crop sustainability and coal pollution issues for Great Lakes Echo. In addition, she served as editor in chief at The State News and covered its academics and research beat. She is a journalism graduate student at Michigan State University.