The state attorney general's office is looking into possible lawbreaking by Unlock Michigan, a group opposed to Covid safety limits on business and recreational activity.
An investigation follows "allegations that members associated with the group may have engaged in criminal activity in collecting petition signatures to repeal state law," the agency says Monday afternoon.
The attorney general's office has received complaints from residents who report they were deceived by petition circulators who were gathering signatures to support the efforts of Unlock Michigan, which is trying to repeal the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act. Residents said they were told the petitions were to support LGBTQ rights, for medical marijuana initiatives or to help small businesses, among other things.
The announcement alludes to Detroit Free Press articles about questionable tactics used by paid signature collectors working on the campaign, which wants to repeal the 75-year-old law that's the basis of executive orders by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer aimed at minimizing Covid risks. Unlock Michigan's strategy is to bypass voters by having the GOP-dominated Legislature repeal the law by approving the citizen-endorsed initiative, an action Whitmer couldn't veto.
Nessel's media release adds:
Recent media reports have also revealed what appears to be at least one official working for the Unlock Michigan campaign who was training petition circulators and suggested they use deceptive and potentially illegal tactics to gain signatures for the ballot initiative.
The attorney general’s office has also received a letter from the League of Women Voters and another from an experienced election law attorney, John Pirich, calling for an investigation into Unlock Michigan’s signature-collecting efforts.
"Our democracy is firmly rooted in the principles of an informed electorate which makes decisions at the polls based on reason and beliefs over lies and deception," Nessel said. "Our ballot initiative process allows efforts with strong public support to be presented to the Legislature. But that process becomes tainted when petition circulators manipulate and cheat to serve their own agendas.
"My office will investigate these allegations, and if there is a violation of law, we will prosecute those responsible."