Michigan group surpasses signatures needed for petition against Gov. Whitmer’s emergency powers

400,000 signatures collected, 340,000 needed

Republicans challenge governor's ability to issue executive orders

A group behind a petition to strip Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of some of her emergency powers hit a major milestone after surpassing the number of signatures needed.

The petition is from Unlock Michigan, who said it reached 400,000 signatures over the weekend.

The number needed to meet the state threshold is about 340,000, but officials said they plan to push for 500,000 signatures as both a show of support and to guard against signatures.

The group is pushing to do away with a 1945 law giving Whitmer sweeping and unlimited powers during an emergency in favor of a similar law from 1976 that does have a time limit on those powers.

Whitmer used the 1945 law in defense for dozens of executive orders she issued to fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19). There are 180 executive orders currently listed on the Governor’s website, although many have been rescinded.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a Democrat now, a Republican in the past or the future. No one individual should have unilateral authority over all thing,” said Unlock Michigan State Co-Chair Ron Armstrong.

Armstrong and Unlock Michigan supporters claim Whitmer overstepped her powers after the state legislature extended her ability to make sweeping stay-at-home orders in the early months of the pandemic.

“When it was determined within the emergency orders you couldn’t get in a boat with your family, you couldn’t go golfing, you couldn’t buy paint, you couldn’t go to the store, it got to be craziness and it was stuffy," Armstrong said. "You couldn’t go to church. Those things are individual rights and freedoms that don’t go away even in the middle of a pandemic”.

Michigan isn’t alone in its state of emergency. According to the National Governor’s Association, 56 U.S. states and territories have active emergency orders right now.

A recent poll from Local 4 News and The Detroit News showed 61 percent of Michiganders approved of the governor’s handling of the pandemic, with 45 percent strongly approving.

The petition still has to be approved by the Secretary of State’s office and it could take time.

The official deadline for this specific kind of legislative initiative is in January although Unlock Michigan thinks without hurdles, the wait time could be 75 days.

If approved, the petition is then sent directly to the legislation to approve or reject, according to state law.

About the Authors:

Grant comes to Local 4 from Oklahoma City. He joins the news team as co-anchor of Local 4 News Today weekend mornings and is a general assignment reporter.

DeJanay Booth joined WDIV as a web producer in July 2020. She previously worked as a news reporter in New Mexico before moving back to Michigan.