Michigan canvassers put minimum wage plan on November ballot

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Democrats Jeannette L. Bradshaw, left, and Julie Maturak look over paperwork at a Board of State Canvassers meeting.

Delta Township — A proposal that would increase the state's minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2022 is headed to the November ballot, unless a court challenge filed Thursday ends the bid. 

With little discussion, the Board of State Canvassers voted 3-0 Friday to certify the ballot initiative, a few days after the Court of Appeals ordered the board to "take any necessary measures" to certify the petition. Democratic canvasser Jeannette Bradshaw was absent from the meeting.

The certification from canvassers comes a day after business opposition group Michigan Opportunity asked the Michigan Supreme Court to overturn a state Court of Appeals order that the proposal be placed on the ballot.

The group asked for an expedited appeal in anticipation of the Friday Board of State Canvassers meeting and asked for a decision on the appeal by next Friday. The state needs to meet a Sept. 7 deadline to finalize ballots for the Nov. 6 election.

The ballot measure would increase the state’s minimum wage to $12 by November by incrementally increasing it from $9.25 to $10 an hour in 2019, to $10.65 in 2020, to $11.35 in 2021 and to $12 in 2022. Future increases to the minimum wage would be tied to inflation.

The ballot initiative also has attracted criticism from some restaurant groups since it would phase out the lower wage rate for restaurant servers and other employees who receive tips.

Michigan Opportunity has argued that a large chunk of signatures should be thrown out because signers checked both “township” and “city” boxes. The group also argued the measure changed the existing minimum wage laws, which would require petitioners to print on the petition the full areas of the law that would be affected.

The Board of State Canvassers deadlocked 2-2 in late July while debating whether to certify the signatures from the One Fair Wage ballot committee.

In a 2-1 decision, state appeals court Judges Stephen Borrello and Jane Beckering ruled the proposal does not violate any constitutional requirements and concluded that challenges to the petition form should not preclude certification by the Board of State Canvassers. They ordered the canvassers board to "take any necessary measures" to put the proposal on the November ballot.

Now that canvassers have certified the petition, the GOP-led Legislature technically has a 40-day window to adopt the initiative and then amend it in simple majority votes, making it unnecessary to go on the ballot. 

The Legislature considered such a move for a separate marijuana legalization ballot proposal with the hopes of amending the law later on, but ultimately failed to muster enough support for adoption. 

It wasn't immediately clearly whether lawmakers would be interested in such a plan for the minimum wage proposal in the two session days before the Sept. 7 deadline. 

If it makes it to voters, the minimum wage proposal would join a ballot that grows with nearly every canvasser meeting. Other proposals on the ballot include one allowing for an independent citizens redistricting commission, another legalizing recreational marijuana and one requiring paid sick leave. 

The Bureau of Elections still is considering signatures for a fifth ballot initiative that would expand voter rights. 

The bureau announced last week that the first batch of 500 sample signatures submitted by Promote the Vote failed to have enough complete signatures to merit certification. The bureau will review another batch of 3,300 signatures to ensure Promote the Vote gathered enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. 

On Friday, Promote the Vote lawyer Andrew Nickelhoff said he provided canvassers more than a dozen affidavits for signatures in question that should satisfy Bureau of Elections requirements. 

"We believe that these affidavits are unimpeachable," Nickelhoff said. 

State Director of Elections Sally Williams said she needed more time to review the affidavits, but said signatures determined to be incomplete in the initial batch of 500 signatures "very clearly" did not match the Qualified voter File used for verification.

"We could find absolutely no way to match them," Williams told canvassers. "They were very, very different.”


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