Unlock Michigan delayed again as canvassers cancel certification meeting

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers has canceled a Wednesday meeting where it was expected to reconsider the certification of a petition that would repeal a 1945 state emergency management law.

Canvassers were ordered by the Michigan Supreme Court on June 10 to certify the Unlock Michigan petition, but opposition group Keep Michigan Safe filed a motion for reconsideration Tuesday that they say stays the high court's ruling. 

With the possibility that the Supreme Court could change its initial ruling, state officials canceled the meeting pending a final decision.

"If you're one of the Democratic canvassers who voted no, you're probably not going to change," said Norm Shinkle, one of two Republican members on the four-person board and its chairman. 

"Why waste taxpayers' money and have everybody show up if nothing's going to change?" Shinkle said. 

Norm Shinkle, Board of State Canvassers chairman

The Unlock Michigan petition is expected to come before the Legislature as soon as it is certified by the Board of State Canvassers, rather than head to voters on the November 2022 ballot. 

The petition would repeal the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act, one of two laws Whitmer used to issue executive orders in the first several months of the pandemic.

On Oct. 2, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the 1945 law was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority. 

The Oct. 2 ruling came the same day Unlock Michigan submitted more than 500,000 signatures to the Bureau of Elections. The petition was recommended for certification last month, but the Board of State Canvassers' two Democratic members voted against certification because of lingering concerns over unethical signature-gathering practices. 

The Michigan Supreme Court was asked to break the 2-2 deadlock and, on June 11, said the investigatory powers of canvassers are limited and the bipartisan panel "has a clear duty to certify the petition."

Keep Michigan Safe, a group formed to oppose the Unlock Michigan effort, urged canvassers Tuesday to delay certification until after the Supreme Court had time to reconsider its decision. 

The Supreme Court decision could have far-reaching effects on canvassers' ability to investigate petition initiatives in the future, said Mark Brewer, a lawyer for Keep Michigan Safe. 

Brewer said the high court should have further briefing and oral argument on the issue to understand the consequences of the decision to order certification. 

"The intention here is to ask the court to correct a broad, we believe, incorrect decision" that will have "massive impact way beyond this petition drive," Brewer said. 

But an Unlock Michigan spokesman called the delay unnecessary.

"The frivolous court filing by Keep Michigan Safe triggered a stupid and unfortunate overreaction by our useless Board of State Canvassers," Unlock Michigan spokesman Fred Wszolek said. "In a never-ending attempt to delay the inevitable, KMS has caused another delay that tells more than a half million Michigan citizens that their voices don't matter. Our Supreme Court will soon set matters right, and we hope they sanction KMS and their counsel."

eleblanc@detroitnews.com