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The Michigan Supreme Court ordered the Board of State Canvassers to certify a petition seeking to repeal a law used by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to impose sweeping restrictions meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Justices said in a unanimous Friday order the canvassing board “has a clear legal duty to certify the petition,” which allows the Republican-led Legislature to repeal the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act, after the Bureau of Elections determined the petitioning group Unlock Michigan collected over 100,000 more signatures than the minimum required for certification.
Two Democrats on the evenly divided four-member canvassing board voted against the petition's certification in April, citing concerns about the petition’s legitimacy.
“I’m concerned about the validity of some of these signatures ... how these signatures were gathered,” Democrat Julie Matuzak, who is vice chairwoman of the board, said at the time. “We are the gatekeepers of election integrity.”
Democratic state Attorney General Dana Nessel announced a day before the board’s vote deadlocked the petition that members of the Bureau of Elections, which is part of her office and analyzes the validity of petitions, discovered “clear evidence of misrepresentations by petition circulators” with Unlock Michigan, calling their tactics “sleazy.” However, Nessel said no laws were broken.
The Bureau of Elections’s analysis found Unlock Michigan submitted at least 460,000 valid signatures and recommended the board certify the petition, according to court documents. The group needed approximately 340,000 signatures to have a valid petition under state law, and about 80,000 from the original 540,000 submitted were thrown out.
"Instead of performing its ministerial duty to certify the Unlock Michigan petition, the Board shirked its duty and instead discussed investigating Unlock Michigan’s petition-gathering methods and promulgating certain rules," Unlock Michigan argued in a legal complaint following the vote.
Certification of the petition means the state legislature can take up and approve the law's repeal without a chance for a veto from Whitmer, according to the Detroit Free Press.
In October, the high court ruled against Whitmer’s executive orders made under the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act, saying in a 4-3 decision the law is "an unlawful delegation of legislative power to the executive branch in violation of the Michigan Constitution."
"We urge the Michigan House and Senate to act promptly to finally strike this awful law from the books forever," Fred Wszolek, spokesman for Unlock Michigan, told the Detroit Free Press following the Friday order.
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Original Author: Jeremy Beaman