Organizers of a Republican-backed Michigan petition to enact voter restrictions to combat would-be voter fraud missed the state’s filing deadline on Wednesday after discovering tens of thousands of fraudulent signatures.
Michigan Republicans are backing the citizen initiative petition known as Secure MI Vote, which would impose strict voter ID requirements, restrict absentee voting and ban private donations that help keep polling places open. The petition drive was launched after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, vetoed a slew of voting restrictions passed by the Republican-led legislature. Though the petition is ostensibly a citizen initiative, voters are not expected to see the measure appear on the ballot. Republicans have openly plotted all along to exploit a bizarre provision in the state constitution that allows the legislature to adopt a citizen initiative and pass it with a simple majority that the governor cannot veto.
Organizers had planned to submit the petition to the state by Wednesday’s deadline but abruptly backed down after discovering that around 20,000 signatures were fraudulent. Organizer Jamie Roe insisted that the effort had gathered 435,000 signatures, more than the 340,047 required, but said the group did not submit the petition out of an “abundance of caution.”
Other organizers who have led petition drives in the state took issue with Roe’s explanation.
“At the end of the day, you have to take responsibility for who you hired to collect your signatures,” said Nancy Wang, executive director of Voters Not Politicians, a nonpartisan advocacy group that successfully backed a citizen initiative to reform redistricting.
Wang accused the campaign of trying to “abuse” the citizen initiative process.
“They’re trying to use it as a way to do an end-run around the voters,” she said. “In fact, they’re supposed to be using it to demonstrate that they have a level of support, that they have the right to be on the ballot. They haven’t been able to do that.”
Roe suggested that the petition circulators had faked the signatures. But long before Wednesday’s announcement, the Secure MI Vote drive was plagued by allegations that petition circulators were misleading voters. Numerous reports on social media and in local news outlets alleged that petition circulators made blatantly false statements to Black voters while trying to convince them to sign a petition that could “risk their own disenfranchisement.”
Voters Not Politicians launched a tool allowing voters to report deception or misinformation by Secure MI Vote circulators, and heard many similar complaints.
“We’ve been collecting stories from people who really have signer’s remorse,” Wang told Salon. “The accounts we’ve been getting are sort of consistent: Petition circulators have been saying, for example, ‘However you think about voting rights, this is just to put the question to the voters.'”
When one voter pressed circulators on what was in the actual petition, “they refused to say anything else about the petition, about what’s in it,” one account said, according to Wang.
“It just illustrates the fact that they don’t have any policies in there that they can publicly and openly and proudly discuss, even with the people they’re trying to get to sign. They’re playing this game where they’re trying to mislead voters into signing the petition.”
Wang said Wednesday’s announcement drops the pretense that Secure MI Vote is actually a citizen initiative.
“It’s never been their plan to qualify for the ballot. The reason they were collecting signatures was to give these voter-suppression measures to the legislature, which would pass them and do an end-run around both the voters and the governor,” she said. “This legislature has already passed a number of measures that are on the Secure MI Vote petition, and they’ve been very clear that they’re willing to use their power in an anti-democratic way to keep themselves in power at the expense of our democracy.”
This story was originally published by Salon. Read more here: https://www.salon.com/2022/06/06/michigans-push-to-fight-fake-voter-fraud-gets-upended-by-actual-fraud/