539K signatures submitted to repeal Whitmer emergency powers

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer provides an update on coronavirus in Michigan during a May 26, 2020, press briefing. (Courtesy Michigan Executive Office of the Governor)

(AP) — A Michigan group submitted 539,000 signatures Friday to repeal a law that has given Gov. Gretchen Whitmer broad emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic, demanding that the veto-proof initiative be put before the Republican-led Legislature before year’s end.

Unlock Michigan needs roughly 340,000 valid voter signatures for the bill to qualify and has a 200,000 cushion. It said state election officials can certify the measure in 60 days — a figure that has been questioned by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who has said it could take 105 days and noted the deadline is 2022. That is when the legislation would go to voters if lawmakers did not pass it.

Republican organizers said they did not include about 1,200 signatures that were collected by circulators after they were trained on deceptive, potentially illegal tactics by a “liberal political operative.”

State Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, is investigating the ballot drive. The Democratic governor has opposed the initiative, saying she has saved lives due to a 1945 law allowing her to unilaterally extend a state of emergency and therefore issued underlying orders to curb COVID-19.