Minimum Wage, Voting Audit Ballot Drives Advance in Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Organizers of 2022 ballot drives to raise Michigan’s minimum wage and conduct another audit of the presidential election cleared a procedural step Wednesday when the state elections board approved summaries to appear atop their petitions.

The groups likely will wait to begin collecting signatures until the canvassers also OK the format of their petitions at a later date. Members of the bipartisan four-person board were split over a 100-word summary for a proposed constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights and continued to debate the language during an hourslong meeting that stretched into the afternoon.

The minimum wage, now $9.87 an hour, will gradually rise annually to $12.05 in 2031 under current law. It would gradually increase to $15 by 2027 and then go up with inflation under the Raise the Wage ballot initiative, which also would boost a lower hourly minimum for tipped employees until it equals the minimum for all workers.

Organizers of the wage proposal and the audit measure both need roughly 340,000 valid voter signatures to send their initiatives to the Republican-led Legislature and, if lawmakers do not adopt them, to the November ballot.

Reproductive Freedom for All, the group behind the abortion initiative, must submit about 425,000 valid signatures because the proposal would amend the state constitution. Michigan still has a 90-year-old abortion ban on its books if the landmark Roe v. Wade decision is reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The proposal would establish a “fundamental right to reproductive freedom” and let the state regulate abortions after fetal viability as long as it does not prohibit an abortion that a health care professional says is medically necessary to protect the woman’s life or physical or mental health.

The election initiative, backed by supporters of former President Donald Trump, would require a “forensic” audit of Joe Biden’s certified 154,000-vote victory in 2020 and trigger such reviews in future elections. Audit responsibilities would be transferred from the secretary of state and county clerks to a board of eight Republican and eight Democratic precinct delegates chosen by the state House speaker and minority leader, along with four alternates.

The board would hire private contractors to do the audit. Thirteen board members would comprise a grand jury that could issue subpoenas and issue arrest warrants to entities “impeding” the process.

The canvassers ultimately approved a summary but not before members in both parties cited confusing wording on whether such audits would be funded publicly, privately or both. They also removed the word “forensic” after the Michigan Democratic Party and others complained.

GOP legislatives leaders have rejected calls for an Arizona-style audit, and a Republican-led legislative committee confirmed there was no widespread or systematic fraud. Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has said the election’s integrity and accuracy have been affirmed by more than 250 audits.