LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan's elections board on Thursday ordered the state to take a second look at whether an anti-abortion group collected enough signatures to put veto-proof legislation before the Republican-led Legislature to ban a second-trimester procedure.
Bureau of Elections staff determined this week that a 500-signature sample showed not enough signatures were gathered. The bipartisan Board of State Canvassers unanimously directed that they pull a larger sample of about 1,600 signatures.
Michigan Values Life needs roughly 340,000 valid voter signatures to qualify but, according to the bureau, was nearly 7,300 short due to duplicates, errors and other issues. It had submitted about 380,000 signatures.
The group’s lawyer contended that too many petition sheets were incorrectly removed for defects before the sample was drawn.
“We certainly have a means to undertake another sample to ensure greater certainty and balancing the risk that over 380,000 citizens will be disenfranchised vs. the minimal burden for the Bureau of Elections to resample,” said Eric Doster.
Right to Life of Michigan, the main organizer of the initiated bill, wants to ban dilation and evacuation — which it refers to as “dismemberment.” Abortion-rights advocates say the procedure is safe and that physicians should not face prosecution for using it.
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has vowed to veto identical legislation that Republicans proposed as normal bills. But under the state constitution, a governor’s veto or veto threat can effectively be bypassed through the initiative process.
Julie Matuzak, a Democratic canvasser, said she “reluctantly” agreed to a Republican canvasser’s motion to check a larger sample.
The Coalition to Protect Access to Care, which was formed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan to oppose the ballot drive and successfully challenged some signatures in the original sample, accused the board of giving Right to Life “special treatment.”
“The board’s action not only violated the state constitution and election laws but will create chaos for all future petition drives,” it said in a statement. “Now, in Michigan if a petition drive is ‘close enough’ or ‘might’ have sufficient signatures, that’s good enough. CPAC intends to redouble its efforts to review the signatures on this defective petition to ensure that it complies with the law.”