LANSING – State election officials say an election campaign to restrict payday loans did not deliver enough valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
Michiganders for Fair Lending submitted approximately 392,000 signatures for the bill initiated June 1. But the Elections Office, in a report issued late last week to the State Canvassing Board, it estimated that the electoral committee’s petitions contain around 275,000 legitimate signatures, far short of the roughly 340,000 needed.
“As has been widely reported in the news, this was a difficult year for all petition drives in Michigan. Despite this disappointment, the Coalition for Fair Lending remains motivated and dedicated to payday loan reform,” spokesman Josh Hovey said in a statement.
After removing sheets that failed an initial “face check,” the bureau drew a sample of 522 randomly selected firms. Only 375 were valid after officials reported issues such as the signers not being registered voters and a challenge by the opposition group Safe Lending Michigan.
Pollsters are expected to agree with the bureau’s recommendation and deny certification as early as next week.
The measure would have capped payday loans, known as deferred filing service transactions, at an annual interest rate of 36 percent. They usually equal 370 percent, depending on the election campaign.
Loans are high-cost, short-term loans, typically for $500 or less, that are typically due on the borrower’s next payday.
“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,” Hovey said. “We will also work as a coalition to push reform through the Legislature to ensure predatory lenders stop taking advantage of Michigan workers.”
Legislative efforts to control payday loans previously stalled.
Michiganders for Fair Lending had raised $4.1 million and spent $2.1 million through April 20, primarily to pay for signature collection. Two groups financed the campaign: the American Civil Liberties Union ($2.6 million) and the Sixteen Thirty Fund ($1.6 million), an organization backed by anonymous leftist donors.
“We have said since the day they applied that their signatures were no good and that they would fail in their attempt to limit safe and regulated lending options for Michigan consumers,” said Patrick Meyers of Safe Lending Michigan.
Michigan voters are likely to consider three state proposals in November, all of them constitutional amendments.
One, which lawmakers placed on the ballot, would revise some of the nation’s strictest legislative term limits and require state elected officials to provide information about their finances to avoid conflicts of interest. The state is beginning to review petitions that were submitted last week by committees seeking to protect abortion rights and expand voting rights.