'Protect Our Jobs' ballot initiative supporters claimed 23 percent more support than they had
According to the official report by the Secretary of State's Bureau of Elections, the coalition of unions behind the proposal called "Protect Our Jobs" over-estimated the number of signatures it gathered by 129,111, or more than the population of Sterling Heights, Michigan's fourth largest city.
However, supporters of the union proposal still continue to claim that 684,286 signatures were turned in to the Secretary of State and are even rounding it up to "nearly 700,000" or simply just 700,000.
According to the official report by the Secretary of State, the total number of signatures turned in by the POJ campaign was 554,375. This means the union claim of having gathered 684,286 signatures was off by 23 percent.
This discrepancy was in the actual number of signatures the union coalition turned in. It was a number election officials arrived at before the signature weeding out process election officials always do. In the case of this proposal, the weeding out process reduced the official count to 489,720 valid signatures. That's 194,566 fewer than the bloated union estimate and a figure larger than the population of any city in Michigan other than Detroit.
In spite of the fall-off from the initial union claim of 684,286, the 489,720 signatures were more than enough to qualify the proposal for the Nov. 6 ballot. Nonetheless, the false claim that the ballot supporters turned in “nearly 685,000 signatures” are ongoing.
This is significant because if the mainstream media continues to also repeat the inflated numbers, and those backing the proposal could garner support they might not otherwise get, especially as the issue winds its way through the courts. The state Board of Canvassers did not certify the ballot proposal last week but supporters have appealed that decision to the Court of Appeals.
Attorney General Bill Schuette has said that the proposal can't be adequately explained in 100-words or less, as is required for a ballot question. Opponents of the proposal also argue that the petition language failed to identify every portion of the Constitution it would materially effect.
Inside Michigan Politics Editor Bill Ballenger said the official — and accurate — number should be the one that's being reported.
"In one sense it doesn't make much difference because the unions still turned in more than enough to qualify for the ballot," Ballenger said. "On the other hand, if the proposal doesn't get on the ballot, the unions shouldn't get away with saying the courts kept the proposal off the ballot after they handed in 684,000 signatures. The number should be corrected to the actual figure the secretary of state says was turned in.
"I mean, the unions shouldn't be able to go around trumpeting that they turned in 684,000 signatures if it's just flat wrong," he said. "If they try to do that, there should be some kind of push back from someone."
Ballenger pointed out that even at the incorrect higher estimate it would be disingenuous for the unions to act as if more signatures meant the proposal would pass.
"Remember that in Wisconsin the unions collected over a million signatures to put the recall of Gov. Scott Walker on the ballot," Ballenger said. "Actually, that was quite an accomplishment, but as we saw, collecting all of those signatures was no guarantee. When it came to the actual election everybody saw what happened — Scott won easily."
Secretary of State Spokesman Fred Woodhams said he had no way of finding out if the POJ claim had set a new record for the largest signature over-estimate in Michigan history.
“That's just not something we track,” Woodhams said.
To its credit, UAW Local 6000 in Lansing is one union affiliate that appears to have made the correction on its website, claiming only that "more than 500,000" signatures had been turned in.