April 05, 2019
Contact: LuAnne Kozma
231-547-2828

Press Release April 5, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 5, 2019

Contact: LuAnne Kozma, Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan

231.944.8750luanne@letsbanfracking.org

Matthew Erard, attorney for Committee to Ban Fracking, 248.767.1605 mserard@gmail.com

Ellis Boal, attorney for Committee to Ban Fracking, 231.547.2626, ellisboal@voyager.net

Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan continues fight to get on 2020 ballot after unheard of rejection of 270,962 voter signatures at the door

Group files brief in Court of Claims after Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson tries to throw group out of court

 

Lansing, Michigan – The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, a statewide ballot initiative campaign (www.letsbanfracking.org), filed an opposition brief yesterday after Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson surprisingly moved to throw the group out of court, defending the former secretary’s decision rejecting all 270,962 signatures of Michigan voters and refusing to take possession of the group’s 47 boxes and count the signatures. The grassroots group brought in the signatures on November 5, 2018, well before the deadline for the statewide election in 2020. The Committee sued the State in the Court of Claims in December for the illegal action.

The Committee had been collecting beyond the statutory 180-day time period, and sought to challenge that law (MCL 168.472a) in court in 2016.  Repeatedly throughout previous litigation in 2016, former Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and her co-defendants stated to all three Michigan courts, “If and when [the Committee to Ban Fracking] obtain[s] the additional signatures they require, then they would be able to file their petition.” The courts accepted their argument as the reason why the Committee’s case was not yet “ripe” to challenge the 180-day signature-gathering law.

The Michigan Court of Appeals took note that the Committee was “continuing to collect signatures with the same petition sheets.”

The current case is before Judge Stephen Borello.

Spurning her prior assurance, the day before the election last fall, Secretary Johnson rejected the signatures because the petition sheets referenced the 2016 election on the front. But as the Committee’s brief shows, all parties knew that the sheets said that during the prior litigation.

Matthew Erard, an attorney for the Committee to Ban Fracking, explained that in their motion for summary disposition, “the State admits there is no provision of the Michigan Election Law nor the Secretary of State’s format for statutory initiative petitions requiring any reference at all of an election date on the sheet. When the Committee filed the signatures on November 5, we said all this and referenced that we were in time for the 2020 election.”

The brief continues,

“Having deliberately instigated Plaintiffs to undertake the completion of such a monumental feat in direct reliance to their assurances, Defendants’ cynical and capricious about-face at this stage is unconscionable. Equity cannot permit Defendants to work such a profound injustice on the hundreds of volunteer circulators, and the tens of thousands of voters who signed after the court decisions in 2016-17, all of whom relied on the integrity of Defendants’ representations to Plaintiffs and the courts.”

Insistence on an election date ignores the new norm of Michigan ballot politics. There was no election at all for three of the four statutory initiatives in 2018 due to the legislature enacting them without a citizen vote.

What the State is also failing to acknowledge, the Committee explains in its brief, is that all the filing deadlines are rolling deadlines. When the “filing deadline” law was amended to include a deadline for the statutory initiative, the Senate staff explained in 1999 in an analysis of the bill, “Besides, if an initiative cannot go on the ballot at the upcoming election, it will be on the ballot for the one after.”

The Committee secured a professional records management company to provide safe storage until the State takes possession as ordered by the Court. The Committee also hired Practical Political Consulting to vet signatures and removed duplicates.

The legal filings for Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan v Secretary of State, Director of Elections, and Board of State Canvassers, (Case No. 18-000-274-MM) are available on the organization’s website at:

https://www.letsbanfracking.org/lawsuit

For more information about fracking in Michigan and the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan:

www.letsbanfracking.org

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