May 03, 2020
Contact: Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan

PRESS RELEASE: May 1, 2020

May 1, 2020

Contact: LuAnne Kozma, campaign director, Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan www.letsbanfracking.org

231.944.8750    luanne@letsbanfracking.org

Matthew Erard, attorney for Committee to Ban Fracking, 248.765.1605    mserard@gmail.com

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

 

Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan delivers signatures to Secretary of State office after win in Court of Appeals, and State's delay

Lansing, Michigan –Following a year and half litigating in the Michigan courts, and nearly month-long delay by the State, the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan delivered its petition signatures, originally filed in 2018, this afternoon at the Secretary of State's office.

The proposal is on track for getting on the ballot in 2020, if the Committee wins its next lawsuit in time, which depends on the State ceasing its delay tactics.

On April 2, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided unanimously in favor of the Committee, reversing the lower court's decision and remanding the Committee's 270,962 petition signatures to the Secretary of State who must accept the signatures and forward them to the Board of State Canvassers for canvassing.

Court of Appeals decision here.

But the State refused delivery, after the Committee contacted them on April 2 to arrange it, saying the Secretary, the Director of Elections and the  Canvassers might appeal the decision. 

Finally on April 17, the State contacted the Committee to bring in the signatures and after confirming on April 23 that the State would not appeal the decision, the Committee made arrangements for the delivery. 

"They unlawfully rejected our signatures, and fought us frivolously in court for 17 months for that unlawful act. We informed the Secretary and Director of Elections today that we expect priority and expedited process from this point forward, and no more roadblocks and delays meant to prevent us from getting on the 2020 ballot," said LuAnne Kozma, the Committee's campaign director.

At issue in the lawsuit was the front of the petition bearing a 2016 election date, a fact that the State knew about all throughout litigation with the Committee in 2016-17 when the State said to all three Michigan courts, the Committee "may continue to circulate their petition without any interference. . . If and when [the Committee] obtain[s] the additional signatures they require, they will be able to file their petition."

The day before Election Day 2018, the Committee brought 270,962 signatures to the Bureau of Elections in Lansing, only to be told the petition sheets were "incorrect" and all signatures were rejected.

The State argued in briefs that the 2016 election date on the front meant the petition had a fatal defect, that the election was only in 2016, and that the law that campaigns must file signatures at least 160 days before the election "contemplates" that initiative sponsors must "indicate in some manner" an election date. The State also argued that the Committee didn't actually file because of the rejection.

The Court didn't buy any of that, stating "Because the Director [of Elections] wrongly refused to accept the filing, the petition must be treated as having been filed on that day. To hold otherwise wouldpunish petition sponsors and the electorate for unlawful actions taken by election officials. Thus, the petition must be treated as having been filed on November 5, 2018." (page 5 of the COA Decision, emphasis added)

The Court ruled the petition was "facially compliant with all statutory requirements." It also ruled the lower court "erred in concluding that the inclusion of an expected election date in the summary meant that the initiative could only be voted on that date. That was legal error because it is statuary law, not the circulator's intent, that determines when an initiative is to be voted on." 

"Given that initiative petitions are not required to state the election at which the proposed law will appear, we fail to see why the reference to an already-passed election should be the date from which the 160-day period is calculated. By statute, the petition may not be voted on in an election less than 160 days away, and so, whatever the petitioner's intent, the relevant election date is the next one that is at least 160 days away." (pp. 3-4)

The Court did not rule on the issue of the unconstitutionality of the law restricting signature-gathering to 180 days. (MCL 168.472a). The legislature originally passed the law to stop a ballot campaign in the 1970s that was seeking to restrict legislators' pay and pension increases. An opinion by Attorney General Frank Kelley the following year made the law inoperable by saying it was unconstitutional, and voters had 4 years to collect signatures, between gubernatorial elections.

In 2016, lawmakers enacted a new, even stricter version of the law in order to stop the Committee to Ban Fracking.

The Committee's signature gathering took place during a 3 year period between 2015 and 2018. 

The proposal would ban horizontal fracking and frack wastes statewide, and amend Michigan's fundamental 1930s-era oil-gas policy which requires the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy regulators to "foster the development" of the oil and gas industry "along the most favorable conditions. . . with a view to the ultimate recovery of the maximum production" of oil and gas. The initiative would substitute a requirement that regulators protect climate and other environmental values. 

 

Legal filings for Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan v Secretary of State, Director of Elections, and Board of State Canvassers, (Case No. 350161 in Michigan Court of Appeals) 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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