FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 16, 2015
Contact: LuAnne Kozma, Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan
(231) 944-8750 luanne AT letsbanfracking DOT org
Michigan ban fracking ballot initiative resumes collecting signatures to make ballot in 2016
Charlevoix, Michigan – The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, a statewide ballot initiative campaign (www.letsbanfracking.org), has resumed collecting signatures through May 2016 to put the ballot proposal on the November 2016 ballot. The approximately 150,000 signatures already collected in 2015 will also be used to reach the goal of 252,523 valid signatures before the State’s June 1, 2016 deadline.
The Committee’s legal counsel, Ellis Boal, explained “In the late 1990s, the Michigan legislature created the Qualified Voter File as the document of record that the State is mandated to use to validate signatures on ballot initiative petitions. It has also been Michigan law that signatures older than 180-days prior to submittal are ‘rebuttably presumed to be stale and void’ unless shown to be valid. That is, the signatures we collected are usable if proven valid. We are simply connecting the dots between these two points of law.” (See statutes referenced below).
Previously in Michigan’s ballot initiative history, organizers have assumed that a 180-day collecting period is set in stone and that signatures collected prior to it could not practically be used because the burden of proving the signatures valid was too burdensome.
Campaign director LuAnne Kozma said, “We’re halfway there. We will get the statewide ban on fracking and frack wastes on the 2016 ballot. We will provide proof of signature validity for as many as possible of the 150,000 signatures already obtained, along with the necessary new signatures we collect through next May. We call on all Michiganders who want to make the effort a success to get involved immediately, by donating to and/or volunteering for the campaign. When we have volunteers out there collecting, people sign.”
The campaign director credits a volunteer base of over 700 people from around the state for working on the campaign, more than doubling the signatures gathered from two years ago. Of the 150,000 signatures collected, volunteers collected over 135,700 and paid circulators collected about 16,000.
To volunteer with the Committee register on the campaign’s website (www.LetsBanFracking.org), take the required training, and use only official petitions printed by the Committee. Volunteers are expected to spend 10 to 20 hours of their time to bring in 200 signatures each.
The Committee commissioned a second poll of Michigan voters in November to gauge public sentiment. A strong 59% majority believes Michigan should ban fracking and frack wastes before the industry creates health problems for residents. An even larger majority - 66% - wants to ban frack waste in Michigan. Poll results can be found on the Committee’s website at www.LetsBanFracking.org.
“These new poll results show that Michigan voters continue to have major concerns about fracking and frack waste harming Michigan’s environment and damaging their health,” said Jim Williams, a polling analyst at Public Policy Polling, the organization commissioned to conduct the poll. “As more and more voters learn about this issue, they are increasingly siding against the fracking industry across demographic groups.”
The ballot language can be found at the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan’s website www.letsbanfracking.org and also on the Michigan Secretary of State’s website.
The Michigan Board of State Canvassers is in the process of updating the rebuttal procedure for validating signatures for ballot initiative and is seeking public comment on or before January 8, 2016. See: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/sos/Announcement_-_Comments_re_180_days_508443_7.pdf
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168.509m Purpose of MCL 168.509m to 168.509hh; definitions.
(1) The purposes of this section and sections 509n to 509hh are all of the following:
(a) To establish a statewide qualified voter file that consists of all qualified electors who wish to be registered to vote in local, state, and federal elections. …
168.509o Qualified voter file; establishment and maintenance; persons considered registered voters; signed application.
(2) Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, beginning January 1, 1998, a person who appears to vote in an election and whose name appears in the qualified voter file for that city, township, village, or school district is considered a registered voter of that city, township, village, or school district under this act.
168.476 Petitions; canvass by board of state canvassers; use of qualified voter file; hearing upon complaint; investigations; completion date; disposition of challenges; report.
(1) Upon receiving notification of the filing of the petitions, the board of state canvassers shall canvass the petitions to ascertain if the petitions have been signed by the requisite number of qualified and registered electors. The qualified voter file shall be used to determine the validity of petition signatures by verifying the registration of signers and the genuineness of signatures on petitions when the qualified voter file contains digitized signatures. . . . [EMPHASIS ADDED]
 168.472a Presumption as to signature on petition.
It shall be rebuttably presumed that the signature on a petition that proposes an amendment to the constitution or is to initiate legislation, is stale and void if the signature was made more than 180 days before the petition was filed with the office of the secretary of state.