Petitioners say it has 500K signatures collected to strip Whitmer of emergency powers

An effort to challenge a Michigan law that grants the governor emergency powers has reportedly surpassed its signature goal and will soon be submitted to the state for review.

The “Unlock Michigan” initiative needs 340,047 valid resident signatures to put the effort to repeal the Emergency Powers of Governor Act before the legislature. On Wednesday morning, Sept. 23, the group Stand Up Michigan announced it had collected 500,000 signatures.

“We did it,” said Ron Armstrong, a spokesperson for the group, during a Facebook Live video. “Unbelievable …. Nobody believed we could do it and it’s done.”

Armstrong said the signature petitions will be delivered to the state next week. From there, the state will review the petitions for duplicate and invalid signatures.

“We’re going to push them in this next 60 days,” Armstrong said. “We know there’s an election coming up, we know that they can certainly use that as a reason not to be looking at signatures right now, there’s a lot happening, but we believe in November, this has no reason not to get validated with the huge number beyond what we needed.”

A spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office did not immediately return a message from MLive seeking comment.

Michigan has two laws that give the governor emergency powers — the 1976 Emergency Management Act, which allows Whitmer to declare a state of emergency and then renew that state of emergency with the consent of the legislature every four weeks, and the 1945 Emergency Powers of Governor Act, which allows a governor to declare a state of emergency and operate under the state of emergency until they deem it to be over.

As Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has continued to extend the coronavirus state of emergency, she’s received pushback from Republicans who have challenged her authority to do so without the approval of the legislature.

The Unlock Michigan initiative petition’s language was approved by the Board of State Canvassers at a July 6 meeting. From there, the group has 180 days to collect signatures.

If enough signatures are valid and the legislature takes up the initiative and approves it, the law can be repealed without the governor’s signature. If the legislature votes the initiative down, it would be left up to the voters during a future election.

The Michigan Democratic Party called the petition’s attempt to remove Whitmer’s emergency powers “reckless and irresponsible.”

“Governor Whitmer’s leadership during this crisis has saved lives, and as cases rise across the country, it’s now more important than ever to support the governor and fight back against these frivolous attacks,” said Tim Carroll, Michigan Democratic Party spokesperson, in a July statement.

The petition is backed by the Michigan GOP, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and other Republicans in the legislature.

As of Tuesday, Sept. 22, Michigan had reported 117,910 confirmed coronavirus cases and 6,680 deaths linked to the infectious virus.

The state is averaging about 675 new cases per day over the last week, which is fewer than the week prior. Deaths and hospitalizations both remain steadily low compared to the early weeks of the pandemic.