A ballot drive to repeal a Michigan law that gives the governor emergency powers has gathered more than 400,000 signatures as of Friday.
Unlock Michigan is about 100,000 signatures away from its 500,000-signature goal in support of revoking the 1945 law that Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerWhitmer leading possible GOP challengers in Michigan governor race: poll Whitmer isolating after husband's positive COVID-19 test Seven most vulnerable governors facing reelection in 2022 MORE (D) has used to issue coronavirus restrictions statewide, including mandates on masks, social distancing and social gatherings, The Associated Press reported.
If the state elections board determines that at least 340,000 of the signatures are valid, then the Republican-controlled legislature would likely move to repeal the law rather than wait for a 2022 public vote. Whitmer would not be able to veto the repeal.
The potential repeal would leave a 1976 law permitting the governor to declare a state of emergency in place.
"No one should think that allowing a politician to have unlimited power for an unlimited duration is a good idea," Fred Wszolek, a spokesperson for Unlock Michigan, told the AP.
"Put the shoe on the other foot and decide if you think this is a good idea because at some time in your future the shoe will be on the other foot," he added.
Unlock Michigan expects to turn in the signatures as early as this month and estimates the state elections bureau won’t take more than 75 days to verify the signatures. As of Aug. 3, Unlock Michigan has collected and spent more than $900,000 to send out its petitions, with most of the funding coming from Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, according to the AP.
Whitmer has called on state residents not to sign the petition, saying the orders have allowed the government to “keep people safe” and permitted some businesses and schools to reopen while following safety regulations.
"Each governor since 1945 has had these same powers, and I'm going to fight to make sure that every governor after me has these powers if, God forbid, they find themselves in a situation where they have to be used," she said, according to the AP.
A different group called Keep Michigan Safe formed in opposition to Unlock Michigan and plans to find flawed or duplicate signatures or evidence that petition collectors lied to signatories.
The New York Times categorizes Michigan as a state where new cases are “lower and staying low,” with a seven-day average of 826 new cases per day.
Republicans filed a lawsuit against Whitmer after the governor declined to agree that all future stay-at-home orders would have to pass with bipartisan legislation. The case is pending in the state Supreme Court after Whitmer won in two previous courts.
At a campaign rally in the state last week, President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger welcomes baby boy Tennessee lawmaker presents self-defense bill in 'honor' of Kyle Rittenhouse Five things to know about the New York AG's pursuit of Trump MORE demanded that Whitmer “open up your state” after the governor called him the “biggest threat” to Americans for downplaying the virus.