Proposal B - Ballot Proposal on Assisted Suicide
Citizens for Compassionate Care, a broad based coalition ballot question committee to defeat Proposal B, kicked off its campaign with a press conference at the state capitol on September 14, 1998. At that point the polls had Proposal B winning by a safe margin. However, after a massive public information campaign exposing the dangers lurking in the proposal, public opinion shifted. And one week away from the election, the polls had Proposal B going down 60% - 32%.
On November 3, 1998, the ballot proposal fell to a crushing defeat, 71% - 29%. Michigan citizens voiced their strong opposition to assisted suicide, mandating that the state of Michigan focus instead on viable alternatives, such as pain management and hospice care.
An ongoing part of the debate over the issues of assisted suicide and euthanasia has been the suggestion that a measure be placed on the ballot for a statewide public vote. In January 1994, Jack Kevorkian launched a petition drive to place the issue of euthanasia on the November 1994 ballot. Kevorkian's petition offered an amendment to the state constitution which read: "The right of competent adults, who are incapacitated by incurable medical conditions, to voluntarily request and receive medical assistance with respect to whether or not their lives continue, shall not be restrained or abridged." Despite the excessive amount of media coverage Kevorkian received touring the state for the campaign, the effort came up short by tens of thousands of signatures. In December 1994, the Michigan House of Representatives voted to make the continuation of a proposed statute banning assisted suicide contingent on a statewide referendum vote. This provision to have the public accept or reject the ban became the point of contention causing the bill to not be given final approval.
Then, in early 1997, a group called Merian's Friends formed with the intention of placing the issue of physician-assisted suicide on the ballot in hopes of legalizing the practice. (Merian's Friends was formed in memory of Merian Frederick, Jack Kevorkian's 19th assisted suicide.) The group developed a petition, with language nearly identical to S.B. 653 - the legislation to legalize physician-assisted suicide that was defeated in the Senate.
On July 17, 1997, Merian's Friends kicked off their campaign, gathering signatures at the Ann Arbor Art Fair.
By October 1997, Merian's Friends was having such a difficult time gathering signatures that they announced that they would begin paying circulators $1.00 for every signature brought in.
In January 1998, still unable to gather the needed signatures to place the issue on the ballot, Merian's Friends announced they had hired a signature gathering firm, National Voter Outreach, from Nevada to collect signatures for them. MF not only had trouble collecting signatures but also money. They sent out e-mail messages asking for donations in the form of loans that they claimed they would pay back. At this point, 1/12/98, the first 180 day period allotted to collect signatures has passed, so signatures collected at the beginning of their campaign were becoming invalid with each day that they extended the drive.
As the months passed on, it seemed that Merian's Friends would fall short of the 247,000 needed signatures. However on May 11, 1998, they claimed to have 260,000 signatures. And by May 19th, they reported that they would submit 350,000 signatures to the Secretary of State's office on May 26, 1998.
Then on May 26th, MF submitted what they claimed to be 379,813 signatures. The initial check by the Secretary of State's office found approximately 365,000 signatures which would be used for their statistical review to determine the overall validity of the signatures. RLM also undertook an initial review of these signatures.
After determining that the MF petitions were subject to widespread fraud, a formal challenge was filed to the State Board of Canvassers against the Merian's Friends petitions on July 7, 1998 by Citizens for Compassionate Care.
On July 20, 1998, the State Board of Canvassers refused to review all of the evidence CCC submitted to challenge the MF petitions, voting 4-0 to approve the signatures.
On August 24, 1998 the State Board of Canvassers designated the MF initiative as PROPOSAL B and approved the 100-word ballot language. The campaign to defeat PROPOSAL B began.