In this hidden camera video recorded by a Keep Michigan Safe representative, a signature collector at a farmer’s market in Brighton tells a woman it is OK for her to sign her husband’s name to the petition.
Detroit Free Press
LANSING – The group opposing an effort to repeal Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers has released more photos and videos showing apparent unlawful activity by Unlock Michigan signature collectors.
Keep Michigan Safe released the photos and videos Wednesday, ahead of Unlock Michigan’s planned delivery Friday of more than 500,000 signatures to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office. Some of the images were shared with the Free Press in advance of their release.
In one hidden camera video recorded by a Keep Michigan Safe representative on Aug. 1, a signature collector at a farmer’s market in Brighton tells a woman it is OK for her to sign her husband’s name to the petition to repeal the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945, even though he was not present.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (Photo: Michigan Excecutive Office of the Governor)
“Do you know his signature?” the petition circulator, who identified herself as Eva from Arkansas, tells the woman, after the woman said she had already signed the petition, but her husband, who was not present, had not yet signed it.
“Sure,” Eva said when the woman asked whether she could sign her husband’s name.
Signing someone else’s name is not permitted under state law.
Eva also tells the woman that the petition is intended only to get the question of repealing the emergency law on the ballot, “and let you be the ones to vote whether it should be repealed or not.” In fact, Unlock Michigan’s plan is to have the Republican-controlled Legislature vote to approve the repeal, once the required number of signatures is verified, so the question never goes to the ballot.
More: What to know before signing a petition in Michigan
The new images show that a hidden camera recording of an Unlock Michigan training session for paid petition circulators, first reported by the Detroit Free Press, in which a trainer employed by California-based In the Field Inc., an Unlock Michigan subcontractor, gives advice on unlawful tactics, was not a one-off incident, Keep Michigan Safe spokesman Mark Fisk said.
“We believe that every petition needs to be reviewed and every circulator needs to be questioned,” Fisk said.
Fred Wszolek, a spokesman for Unlock Michigan, has acknowledged some problems with paid petition circulators and said that signatures collected by In the Field will not be used. He has said that most of the signatures were collected by Unlock Michigan volunteers, not paid circulators.
“We have gone above and beyond to require all circulators to behave lawfully, appropriately and professionally at all times,” Wszolek said Wednesday. “If they failed to meet that standard, they should be held accountable.”
Fisk said the “new evidence shows that the illegal and improper tactics affect both the paid circulators and the volunteer circulators, as well.”
More: In secret recording, trainer for Unlock Michigan advises on unlawful tactics
More: Unlock Michigan petition circulator has criminal record, history of ‘bait and switch’
Other photos and videos Keep Michigan Safe said it will release on its website Wednesday show unattended petitions left on tables at restaurants and another business by volunteer circulators. Under state law, signatures must be witnessed by the person circulating the petition.
Another shows a volunteer petition circulator having someone sign a voter registration card and then immediately sign the petition, although the voter registration card had not yet been submitted to the state so it could take effect, Fisk said. Only registered voters are allowed to sign petitions.
On Monday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced she is launching a criminal investigation into Unlock Michigan and its signature collection methods.
Nessel’s announcement followed a series of Free Press articles about questionable tactics employed by paid signature collectors working on the Unlock Michigan campaign.
The Free Press reported Sept. 22 on a video showing Erik Tisinger advising trainees about giving potential signers inaccurate information about the purpose of the petition, trespassing on private property, unlawfully leaving petitions in someone else’s possession to collect signatures, and giving misleading testimony in a court deposition.
In August, the Free Press reported that another company involved in collecting signatures, Let the People Decide, has a history of alleged “bait and switch” tactics in paid petition drives around the U.S., in which people were allegedly given inaccurate descriptions of what the initiatives would do, and the company is headed by a man who has a criminal record for falsifying his voter registration.
“The alleged unscrupulous and illegal tactics being used by Unlock Michigan are unsettling and the attorney general’s decision to open an investigation into these allegations is an important and necessary step to protect the integrity of our election laws,” Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said Wednesday.
Every paid circulator employed by Unlock Michigan, National Petition Management or any subcontractor was required to sign an agreement which, among other things, requires that circulators “not make statements or present exhibits falsifying the contents or effects” of the petition, Wszolek said, and “not solicit or allow false or forged signatures.”
That said, Unlock Michigan will submit more than 500,000 signatures Friday, which is far more than the roughly 340,000 valid signatures required, he said.
“There is no doubt whatsoever that we have more than (the) required number of signatures to submit this initiative to the Legislature for prompt action,” Wszolek said.
“Any delay in doing so will amount to disenfranchising more than a half million Michigan citizens who are exercising their right to initiate legislation.”
Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4. Read more on Michigan politics and sign up for our elections newsletter.
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