Group working to strip Whitmer’s emergency powers says it ‘vastly' exceeded petition goal

A Dickinson County voter signing name in support of repealing the Governor's Emergency powers.
A Dickinson County voter signing name in support of repealing the Governor's Emergency powers.(Remi Murrey)
Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 11:50 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - The group collecting signatures to overturn Michigan’s Emergency Powers of the Governor Act says it “vastly exceeded” the requirements for a statewide referendum.

Unlock Michigan says it plans to turn in more than 500,000 signatures to the Michigan Bureau of Elections soon, which is about 30% higher than the 340,000 signatures required for a statewide initiative. The group says it conducted the petition drive in all 83 counties over 80 days.

If the Secretary of State’s Office determines the minimum of 340,000 valid signatures from registered Michigan voters has been achieved, the issue will go to the Michigan Legislature. Lawmakers can either vote to overturn the law, which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer couldn’t veto, or send the issue to a statewide vote.

Michigan lawmakers approved the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act in 1945. Whitmer has been using it as the basis for her emergency authority to issue executive orders during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This initiative isn’t about any one rule, or any one personality. This proposed law simply takes away the ability of a single politician to rule like a monarch for as long as they like. That’s a power no politician of any party should ever have," said Unlock Michigan co-Chair Ron Armstrong.

The process of certifying the petitions traditionally begins with examining a representative sample of signatures to determine how many are valid and invalid. Unlock Michigan believes the process should take about 60 days, which would be enough time for the Legislature to act this year.

“Republicans and Democrats alike oppose the idea of an endless lockdown, and they oppose any elected official seizing all the power for themselves," said Unlock Michigan co-Chair Meshawn Maddock. “That’s simply not the Michigan way.”

Whitmer and two top advisers released a video conversation on Tuesday discussing Michigan’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and defending their use of the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act. Mark Totten, who is Whitmer’s chief legal counsel, called the law “the heart” of Michigan’s response.

“If these challenges succeed, this is not a matter of just a slight tweak, it’s not trimming at the edges. We’re really talking about removing the heart of what’s been in place to bring us to this place where we are now and what we know has saved thousands of lives,” he said.

The Republican-led Legislature filed a lawsuit in May challenging Whitmer’s use of the 1945 law and the 1976 Emergency Management Act to continue Michigan’s coronavirus State of Emergency unilaterally. Courts ruled that she couldn’t use the 1976 law without legislative approval, but her actions are legal under the 1945.

The Michigan Court of Claims and Michigan Court of Appeals both upheld Whitmer’s use of the 1945. The case has been appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments two weeks ago and requested more information before issuing a ruling.

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