According to a report recently released by the state’s Office of Elections, organizers of a proposal to lower the maximum allowable interest rate on payday loans in Michigan failed to collect the necessary signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
The office staff report recommended that the State Board of Solicitors decline to place the Michiganders for Fair Lending proposal on the ballot for a vote this fall.
Bureau of Elections staff conducted a review of a random sample of approximately 392,000 signatures filed by Michiganders for Fair Lending last month. Based on the review, staff estimated that the petition contained only 274,668 valid signatures, 72,513 fewer than the number needed to qualify for the ballot.
The signatures were disqualified primarily due to clerical errors, such as missing information on the circulator’s certificate or failure to identify whether the circulator was paid, according to the Office of Elections report.
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A spokesperson for the group expressed disappointment with the report’s findings, calling it a “challenging year” for petition campaigns in the state.
“Despite this disappointment, the Fair Lending Coalition remains motivated and committed to payday loan reform,” Josh Hovey said in a statement. “Going forward, we will urge our stakeholders to hold local candidates accountable by urging them to support payday loan reform as part of their campaign platforms. We will also work as a coalition to push reform forward at the Legislature to ensure that predatory lenders stop taking advantage of hard-working Michiganders.”
The proposal would prevent payday lenders from charging interest or fees above 36% per year. It would have canceled transactions above that rate, required a warning to consumers specifying the maximum rate allowed and empowered the attorney general’s office to prosecute those who charged above it.
Surrounded by boxes of signed petitions submitted before the filing deadline, Michiganders for Fair Lending Treasurer Dallas Lenear touted the proposal as bringing relief to low-income Michigan residents.
In most Michigan counties, there are more payday loan stores than McDonald’s, and they’re disproportionately located in rural and low-income communities where residents struggle to afford the high interest rates. currently practiced, he said.
The group was the only one to meet the deadline to submit a proposal to change state law in time to go to the ballot in November.
Elections Office staff have yet to release their review of the signatures filed to put two constitutional amendments on the ballot this fall. Reproductive freedom for all would enshrine the right to abortion in Michigan’s constitution while Promote the Vote proposes measures to strengthen absentee voting, among other changes. Both groups filed signatures last week ahead of the filing deadline. Lawmakers have already placed a constitutional amendment on the November ballot to reduce the total number of years a state legislator can serve from 14 years to 12 years, but allow a lawmaker to serve all 12 years in the one or the other legislative chamber.
The Council of State Solicitors is scheduled to meet next on Thursday, according to a list of 2022 meeting dates on its website.
Clara Hendrickson audits Michigan issues and politics as a body member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Make a tax-deductible contribution to support his work at bit.ly/freepRFA. Contact her at [email protected] or 313-296-5743. Follow her on Twitter @clarajanehen.