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Petition Summaries OKed For Pro-Choice, Forensic Audit, $15 Minimum Wage

January 25, 2022

Courtesy MIRS News for the SBAM Watchdog

The Board of State Canvassers Wednesday powered through 100-word petition summaries for three 2022 separate ballot drives, giving the green light for pro-choice, “forensic” audit and $15-an-hour minimum wage advocates to begin circulating petitions.

Of the three, the Pro-Choice constitutional amendment to pre-empt the possible overturning of Roe vs. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court was most at risk of not happening Wednesday. 

As it was, the approved language for “Reproductive Freedom For All” was the first step by a coalition of groups, led by Planned Parenthood, to amend the state constitution and allow for legal abortions in Michigan.

“I think it’s important that we protect women’s reproductive health in Michigan,” said Sommer Foster, the co-executive director for Michigan Voices. 

Foster said she was glad the process was able to play out Tuesday and did not get delayed further. 

Her statement came after Republican Canvasser Norm Shinkle suggested the summary be approved at a later date in February. The two Democrats didn’t like the idea, though, and neither did Republican Canvasser Tony Daunt.

He wasn’t a big fan of Election Director Jonathan Brater’s proposed language so he asked the Board to go at recess for a half hour as he pounded out his own 100-word summary. Canvasser Mary Ellen Gurewitztook exception with some of Daunt’s language and the two them, along with attorney Mark Brewer, came to a final consensus.

The summary language passed 3-1 with Shinkle voting no.

“I am very happy that we were able to keep the language around reproductive freedom,” said Foster. 

Pro-life groups like Right to Life of Michigan were also in attendance. The group testified for a change to include that the amendment would create a new constitutional right, said Genevieve Marnonthe legislative director for Right to Life of Michigan. 

“We want voters to know, first and foremost, that it does create a fundamental right to abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy, for any reason a woman and her doctor decides affects her mental health,” she said, “which we were able to get added into the summary language.” 

Marnon said the group also wanted to include the list of bills that the amendment would invalidate. 

“Obviously we’re not happy about the proposed language in general,” Marnon said, “but at the same time we’re trying to get a summary that’s accurate, and not biased and not leading, and yet really depicts what this constitutional amendment would do.” 

She said Right to Life has petitioned in the past for laws like parental consent and the ban on Medicaid funding abortion. Those would be struck down by the proposed amendment. 

The list of bills was not included due to space limitations, Marnon said. 

“There’s always compromise in these things,” she said. “You take the good with the bad.”

Forensic Audit Petition

After nearly two hours of back-and-forth, the Board voted unanimously to adopt a 100-word summary for Audit MI’s proposal to put an independent election auditing team into state law.

Jon Rocha of Audit MI said he felt Brater’s proposed summary represented the petition well. But Aghogho Edevbie, the Michigan State Director of All Voting is Local, questioned whether voters would understand this had to do with conducting an audit on the 2020 election results.

“If this were to make it to the ballot, it would be two years after,” he said. “It’s extremely important that the public, especially when signing, be apprised to that . . . I don’t think anyone can disagree that the reason we’re here is because there’s controversy with the 2020 general election.”

The discussion inevitably veered into the substance of the petition and whether an independent auditing team appointed by legislative leaders was needed, but ultimately the debate among canvassers revolved around whether the word “forensic” was appropriate in the ballot language.

They ended up saying it was not. The word “forensic” is used to look into potential criminal actions when it shouldn’t be automatically assumed that’s the case, canvassers said.

Canvassers adopted the language 4-0, despite concerns that the seven-page proposal was poorly drafted.

$15 Minimum Wage

An initiative to raise Michigan’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2027 also received 4-0 approval after discussion among canvassers about whether it was fair to assume reduced productivity from minors or those with disabilities.

Brewer, representing Raise Michigan, found such a categorization in the initial language offensive to those with disabilities and worked acceptable language.

Current state law has the minimum wage being raised to $12.05 by 2030.

Both the $15 minimum wage and forensic audit petitions are for changes to state law, which require 340,047 valid signatures by 5 p.m. June 1. The reproductive freedom folks need 425,059 valid signatures by 5 p.m. July 11 since they’re hoping to change the constitution.

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