LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Ruth Johnson on Wednesday criticized Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson for failing to certify the Unlock Michigan petitions in a timely manner.
“Allowing the Michigan people to directly propose legislation through a citizens’ initiative is arguably the most democratic process we have in our state,” said Johnson, R-Holly. “Once the people do their job, the role of the secretary of state and her department is to be impartial and nonpartisan in determining if the petition has enough valid signatures — regardless of their personal views on an issue.
“The fact that the department has failed to do its job after more than 120 days hurts our democracy. There is no excuse for it to have already taken over 50% longer for the department to review the petition signatures than it took for the citizen group to gather them.”
Johnson made the comments after the Senate Elections Committee reported Senate Resolution 9 to the full Senate.
SR 9 requests that the secretary of state and Bureau of Elections complete the signature review process for the Unlock Michigan initiative petition.
“During my eight years as secretary of state, I oversaw the canvassing of many legislative initiatives and proposed constitutional amendments,” Johnson said. “At no time did I let my personal views factor into the process. I had long been supportive of secure no-reason absentee voting, but I personally did not agree with some provisions of Proposal 3 in 2018 that I felt stripped away integrity. But citizens collected the required signatures, and we did our job and certified the petitions in 53 days — so the proposed constitutional amendment would be on the general election ballot for the people to consider.”
SR 9 notes that Unlock Michigan filed over 500,000 signatures on Oct. 2, 2020 for its petition to repeal the 1945 Emergency Powers of Governor Act and that the Bureau of Elections director stated in an affidavit that it takes “approximately 60 days” to complete the process.
The act was subsequently ruled unconstitutional by the Michigan Supreme Court, which Johnson said is all the more reason to get the law off the books.