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Ballot initiatives bypass signature deadline

Petition form photo

Proposed constitutional amendments still have until July 8 to submit their signatures to get on the ballot

Michigan voters will not be seeing any ballot initiatives when they head to the polls this November.

Wednesday’s 5 p.m. deadline for initiative petitions to submit signatures to the state Bureau of Elections came and went without any filings, according to the Michigan Department of State.

Proposed constitutional amendments still have until July 8 to submit their signatures to get on the ballot.

Among the initiatives to bypass the deadline was an effort to restore so-called good time credits for Michigan prisoners. It would have allowed people in prison to shave time off their prison sentences for good behavior.

The group working on the initiative, Michigan Justice Advocacy, said its volunteers did not gather the nearly 356,958 signatures required to put the question before voters.

Michigan Justice Advocacy President Jack Wagner said it came down to a lack of resources.

“We’re an all-volunteer organization and that makes it very difficult. Right? Because people are working full-time jobs, like myself. So, to go out there and try and really pound the pavement, collecting signatures. At the same time, running a family, a household, and so forth, it’s difficult,” Wagner said.

Michigan, like many other states, used to offer ways for prisoners to shorten their sentences. But that went away with Michigan’s 1998 Truth in Sentencing law that required inmates to serve their entire minimum sentence.

The current ballot campaign built upon legislation to restore good credits introduced last year in the Michigan House that never received a hearing in the face of opposition.

Critics had expressed concerns about how allowing incarcerated people to get out early would impact crime victims.

Wagner said his group has been meeting with policymakers in hopes of updating the bill package to gain more support from lawmakers.

“We certainly don’t want this policy to be viewed as a get out of jail fee, or that you don’t have to work at it. And, in fact, you do,” Wagner said.

Wagner said new potential legislation involves tiering people in prison, so their eligibility for good time credits depends on how often they end up in custody.

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