Gov. Whitmer vetoes bill to put deadlines on petition reviews for ballot proposals

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed two more GOP-backed election bills Friday, including one that would have established a 100-day deadline for state officials to review initiative petition signatures.

Whitmer, a Democrat, has previously pledged to block proposals from the Republican-controlled Legislature that she believes diminish voters' rights. GOP lawmakers have advanced a bevy of election-related bills this year after former President Donald Trump made unsubstantiated claims that widespread fraud cost him the 2020 vote.

"Every citizen of Michigan has the constitutionally-guaranteed right to vote and deserves to exercise that right in safe and secure elections," Whitmer wrote in a letter explaining her latest vetoes. "Enrolled Senate Bills 277 and 280 are the latest in a series of election bills arriving on my desk that fail to advance those goals."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

One of the two bills, Senate Bill 280, would have required the Board of State Canvassers to review petition signatures aimed at initiating a change in law within 100 days of their filing. The proposal came as Republicans expressed frustration with how long it took state officials to examine the signatures for the Unlock Michigan campaign, which aimed to repeal the 1945 law that underpinned Whitmer's initial handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act.

There were about 280 days, and court rulings, between the signatures being filed and the Board of State Canvassers signing off on the petitions and sending the proposal to the Legislature.

The bill "would divert key resources away from ensuring that every qualified Michigan resident can cast a secure ballot in our elections," Whitmer said.

In a statement Friday, Sen. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, the former secretary of state, said 100 days is a "reasonable timeframe."

"This veto is not about good public policy, it is about partisan politics," Johnson said.

Whitmer also vetoed another bill that would have required county clerks to update

their voter files to cancel the registration of deceased individuals at least each month. The governor said the proposal "disregards the state’s successful process for maintaining the Qualified Voter File by adding burdensome requirements that would distract from core election administration responsibilities."

On Oct. 3, Whitmer vetoed four other election bills that she said would "weaken voting rights" and suppress votes in Michigan.

In her letter to lawmakers Friday, the governor said she would sign election reform bills to improve military families' access to the ballot, to remove barriers to voting absentee by creating a permanent absentee voter list and to allow additional time for preprocessing absentee ballots ahead of Election Day.

cmauger@detroitnews.com