Marijuana Legalization Campaign Says Court an Option If Petitions Rejected

Group says current policy denies voters ballot access and violates the First Amendment.

Jake Neher/WDET

There could be a legal showdown looming between state elections officials and a ballot campaign to legalize recreational marijuana.

The MILegalize campaign wants the state to count signatures that are more than 180 days old. Right now, those signatures are presumed to be outdated and invalid unless the campaign can prove the signer is still a registered voter. But that’s very hard to do without access to the state’s electronic voter database. It requires getting an affidavit from every voter or looking at records kept by local clerks.

Republicans on the bipartisan Board of State Canvassers killed a proposal to allow campaigns to use the electronic database to prove voter registration. Canvasser Norm Shinkle says that wouldn’t be fair prior to the June 1 deadline to turn in petitions.

“I don’t think we should change the rules in the middle of the game,” he said.


“I’m outraged,” said Jeff Hank of MILegalize. “If they’re not approved then, yeah, we’re headed to litigation and that’s a shame because this could all be avoided.”

Hanks says the board policy denies voters ballot access to redress grievances and violates the First Amendment.

Other petition drives, including one to ban a drilling process known as “fracking,” that are struggling to gather enough signatures under the current rules could join a legal effort to challenge the current parameters.