SawariMedia, LLC v. Whitmer, No. 20-1594 (6th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Proponents of a criminal-justice reform initiative that they seek to place on the ballot for the 2020 Michigan general election sued state officials, who continued to strictly enforce the signature requirement for initiatives even after Governor Whitmer issued an order requiring most Michigan residents to remain in their homes as part of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Finding that the combination of the stay-at-home order and the signature requirement violates the First Amendment by creating a severe restriction on their access to the ballot, the district court enjoined the strict enforcement of the signature requirement. The court rejected a proposed compromise that included a several-weeks extension of the filing deadline.
The Sixth Circuit declined to issue an emergency stay pending appeal. With respect to the burden imposed on the Plaintiffs’ access to the ballot, the restrictions at issue are identical to those previously found to be severe. The Defendants failed to show a likelihood that the district court abused its discretion by rejecting the proposed remedy of extending the petition deadline by, at most, 35 days. The court took “no position on the merits.”