- Associated Press - Monday, February 10, 2014

DETROIT (AP) - Critics of Michigan’s wolf hunt are challenging a requirement that only state residents can circulate petitions to approve or repeal laws through the ballot box.

Keep Michigan Wolves Protected said it would recruit allies from outside Michigan if non-residents were allowed to collect names for statewide ballot referendums.

The group and others filed a lawsuit Sunday, saying the law should be thrown out as a violation of the First Amendment. They want U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland to immediately suspend the requirement while the case moves through court.

“The First Amendment does not allow Michigan to insulate its population from new ideas by impairing the ability of outsiders to advocate effectively for political change,” attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan said.

The Secretary of State’s Office, which enforces election law, declined to comment on the lawsuit Monday.

Wolf hunt critics want to overturn a law that led to the first hunt in the Upper Peninsula in November. They said they need about 162,000 signatures from registered voters to get the question on the fall ballot.

The ACLU said similar residency restrictions have been struck down in other states. A federal judge blocked an Ohio law in November, saying the state could choose other ways to prevent petition fraud.

“Despite this broad national consensus that such laws are unconstitutional, Michigan adheres to a residency requirement for petition circulators,” the ACLU said.

Away from court, a group called Put the Citizens in Charge wants voters to amend the state constitution to eliminate the residency issue and make other changes in the petition process.

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