In 2018 the legislature enacted a mean-spirited anti-petitioning law designed to make it more difficult to collect enough signatures to place new initiatives on the ballot. The new law put a cap on the number of signatures that can be collected from any one congressional district (thereby diluting the ability of African American voters to place initiatives on the ballot), and required paid petition circulators to register with the state before they can start collecting signatures. Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that she would consider issuing an attorney general’s opinion regarding the constitutionality of the new statute and invited interested parties to submit legal memos to assist her office. In February 2019 the ACLU of Michigan submitted a 12-page letter arguing that the new law violates the Michigan Constitution, the First Amendment, and the Voting Rights Act. In May 2019 Nessel issued a formal attorney general’s opinion adopting our analysis and declaring the new statute unconstitutional. The case was then taken up in court, and we filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Michigan Supreme Court again arguing that the new law is unconstitutional. In December 2020, however, the Supreme Court declined to rule on the merits of the case, dismissing it as moot because the plaintiff organization that had filed the lawsuit was no longer seeking to have an initiative placed on the ballot. The case returned to court the following year, and in October 2021 we filed another friend-of-the-court brief in the Michigan Court of Appeals. The court issued a ruling agreeing with our position regarding the 15% cap and the registration requirement, but upholding the disclosure requirement. In January 2022 the Michigan Supreme Court affirmed. (League of Women Voters of Michigan v. Secretary of State; ACLU Attorneys Dan Korobkin and Sharon Dolente; Cooperating Attorneys Sam Bagenstos and Eli Savit of U-M Law School.)
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