The closer we get to November, the farther the group MILegalize seems to be from reaching the 2016 ballot. Having initially started gathering signatures last summer, the group has spent countless hours working to collect enough signatures and raise awareness – but unfortunately it may not have been enough for them to land on the ballot this year. The group collected far more than the required number of signatures to place a constitutional amendment on the ballots, but a large portion of those signatures are being considered “stale and void” for being collected outside the short timeframe of 180 days.
After the Secretary of State, Bureau of Elections and the Board of State Canvassers all determined that those signatures were invalid it was only a matter of days before MILegalize filed an appeal. For the last few weeks they’ve been waiting patiently for an answer – and even though it is not the answer they were hoping for, it is still the one they were more than likely expecting. Michigan Court of Claims Judge Stephen Borrello dismissed the lawsuit entirely.
“As our Supreme Court recognized, the purity of elections is an important state interest that is furthered by the rebuttable presumption that signatures more than 180 days old are stale and void,” Borrello wrote in his 14-page opinion.
Recent updates to the law would have made these signatures invalid regardless – but the older version (which MILegalize claims should apply to them, rather than the new version applying retroactively) would have allowed them to doublecheck the validity of signatures collected outside the 180 days. So far, it doesn’t appear that this will be the case and this leaves the group short on options – but they will not be giving up after all their hard work, not just yet.
“It’s definitely not what we were looking for, and we’re disappointed, but we’re on to the higher level,” Jeff Hank, attorney for MILegalize said Wednesday morning.
Not only does Hank plan to appeal to the Supreme Court – who will have to make a decision to hear or dismiss the case and possibly make a ruling in a very short time. The issue, according to Hank, is not only one of whether or not they collected enough signatures, but the fact that denying such a large number of signatures is denying a large number of people their First Amendment rights.
“We are losing our ability to participate in our own government and our voices are being silenced, and they’re being silenced unfairly,” he said following the ruling.
At this point, it is looking a lot like the group will have to accept that their amendment will have to wait, at least until 2018, before it will be seen by voters. Their attorney is adamant and focused, knowing what his goals are and he’s going to try everything he can to get them there – but in the end, it just might not be enough. If that is the case, the group will have to do everything they can to fundraise in order to come back at full force and prepared to gather the needed signatures within the short time of 180 days. Either way, hopefully soon Michigan will get the chance to vote on legalizing adult use of marijuana.