Published 11:32 p.m. ET Aug. 2, 2017 Updated 7:28 a.m. ET Aug. 3, 2017
Lansing – Summer is petition season in Michigan, where paid circulators are taking advantage of warm weather and public events to collect signatures for at least three statewide initiatives – and sometimes stretching the truth in their sales pitch to voters.
A circulator working a park concert last month in Lansing approached a Detroit News reporter and requested signatures for two separate petitions, including one she said was “for the teachers and construction workers to help protect their wages, benefits and pensions,” a claim she repeated twice.
The initiative actually seeks to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law, which guarantees union-level wages and benefits for workers on some government-funded construction projects. It has no direct connection to teacher compensation, but supporters contend it would reduce school construction costs. Critics argue it would drive down worker pay on construction projects.
His bill would make it a misdemeanor crime for a paid or volunteer circulator to “knowingly and willfully circulate, publish, or exhibit a false statement or misrepresentation concerning the contents, purport or effect” of a statewide petition. Violators could face up to 93 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.
“I believe that the petition process is a fundamental part of our democracy here in Michigan, but you’re stealing that from somebody when you lie to them, when people think they’re signing one thing and they’re actually signing something else,” Hertel said.
Similar anti-lying legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, but the proposals have not yet been taken up by Republican majorities in either chamber.