A Michigan ballot initiative to combat predatory lending is unlikely to appear before voters in November because it does not have enough valid signatures, the state’s Office of Elections found in a exam of petitions.
Michiganders for Fair Lending, the only one of 10 legislative proposals to submit signatures this year, turned in 392,009 just hours before the June 1 deadline. The Elections Office rejected about 9,000 people during a preliminary review, but found more issues during a more in-depth review.
In a random sample of 522 signatures, Bureau staff discovered that 122 – more than 1 in 5 – were invalid. The most common reason was that the person signing was not registered to vote. Another 25 signatures were invalidated after the Safe Lending Michigan opposition group alleged other technical issues.
The main reasons included someone signing more than once and some signature lines missing information.
Extrapolating from the sample, the Bureau estimates that Michiganders for Fair Lending contains only 274,668 petition signatures, more than 70,000 less than the required 340,047.
The Bureau report recommends that the Board of State Solicitors not certify the initiative at its meeting on Thursday.
“Michiganders for Fair Lending is disappointed with the staff report concluding that this year’s petition campaign did not meet the signature requirement,” spokesperson Josh Hovey said in a statement. “As widely reported in the news, this has been a difficult year for all petition campaigns in Michigan.”
Related: ‘It’s their obligation’: Michigan expels 19 candidates from Aug. 2 ballots over petition errors and fraud
The initiative would have prevented payday lenders from charging predatory interest rates, attempting to give people access to small loans instead of trapping them in debt. The ballot measure would have capped the annual percentage rate on payday loans at 36%, when the typical rate in Michigan is the equivalent of 370%.
Michiganders for Fair Lending put their signatures through a “thorough quality control process,” Treasurer Dallas Lenear said of their submission, which he said made the group “confident” they were submitting valid signatures. .
“Fair Lending did not attempt to rehabilitate any particular signature ‘invalidated by the Bureau, according to its report,’ but noted that it could do so before the Board [of State Canvassers].”
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