Michigan legislature passes distribution requirement for initiatives

The Michigan State Legislature approved and Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed Michigan House Bill 6595 on December 28, 2018. HB 6595 created a distribution requirement for initiative signature petitions in Michigan limiting the number of signatures collected in any one congressional district to 15 percent of the total required. Michigan has 14 congressional districts. The requirement applies to both initiated constitutional amendments, initiated state statutes, and veto referendums. This effectively requires valid signatures from a minimum of seven different congressional districts for a successful initiative petition.
 
The bill also required the disclosure on petitions of whether a petitioner is paid or volunteer; mandated a petitioner affidavit; and made other changes regarding petitioners, valid signatures, and the timeline for certification.
 
The bill was passed in the state House on December 12, 2018. It was amended and approved by the state Senate on December 21, 2018, in a vote of 26-to-12. In the Senate, 26 Republicans voted in favor of the bill, and all 11 Democrats along with one Republican, Tory Rocca, voted against the bill. The House concurred with the state Senate’s amended version on December 21, 2018, in a vote of 57-to-47. Among Republicans in the House, the bill was approved 56-to-5. Among Democrats, the bill was rejected 42-to-1.
 
Background context
 
Of the 26 states with some form of ballot initiative or veto referendum petition process at the statewide level, 16 other states besides Michigan have a distribution requirement. Of those 16 states, seven states base the distribution requirement on the state’s counties (Arkansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, and Wyoming). In five states, it is calculated based on state legislative districts (Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Utah). In the other four states with a distribution requirement, it is based on U.S. congressional districts (Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, and Nevada). Washington, D.C., also has a distribution requirement based on city wards.
 
Most recently, Colorado voters approved a distribution requirement specifically for initiated constitutional amendments in 2016. It was put on their ballot through a successful initiative petition.
 
Legislators in Maine, Oklahoma, and South Dakota considered distribution requirements for citizen initiatives in 2018, but none of the proposals were enacted.



About the author

Josh Altic

Josh Altic is a project director at Ballotpedia and can be reached at josh.altic@ballotpedia.org

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