The Big Three
A look at the three statewide ballot proposals for 2022
By Ross Boissoneau | Oct. 29, 2022
When Michigan voters head to the polls Nov. 8, there will be three statewide proposals on the ballot. Proposal 1 would change term limits for state legislators and mandate financial disclosure requirements for state executive and legislative officials. Proposal 2 would make changes to voting policies, including early/absentee voting for every election. Proposal 3 would provide women the right to terminate pregnancies, rather than reverting to the 1931 state law against abortion. All three proposals would amend Michigan’s constitution.
Those are the Reader’s Digest condensed versions of what the proposals represent. But what do they actually provide? What would happen if they are passed by voters? Who is supporting them, and why?
This proposal would impose term limits on those serving in the state congress. What’s that you say—there are already term limits? True, but this law would amend those limits in such a fashion as to enable legislators to potentially serve longer in each chamber but fewer years total.
Currently, state reps are limited to three terms of two years each (six years total), and state senators to two terms of four years each (eight years). As things now stand, someone could serve six years in the state house, then potentially serve two four-year terms in the state senate, 14 years all told. Proposal 1 would cap the total length of time to 12 years, but they could be served in any combination. That would enable someone to serve six terms in the house or three in the senate.
The proposal also includes language mandating financial disclosure rules for state elected officials, including all 148 state lawmakers as well as governor, secretary of state, and attorney general. That would include a description of the official’s assets, all sources of income, a description of their liabilities, positions held outside their elected office, any arrangements regarding future employment, continuing benefits from former employers (other than the state payments), and gifts received from registered lobbyists. Michigan and Idaho are the only two states that currently do not require elected or appointed public officials to disclose personal financial information.
Opponents argue that the change would allow legislators to serve up to twice as long and obviates the turnover in the legislature mandated by the 1992 term limit laws currently in place.
The Michigan Manufacturers Association is among those supporting the proposal. “The MMA has not put money into it, but we’re happy to support it,” says Mike Johnston, executive vice president of government affairs and workforce development for the MMA.
The rationale behind the support is the belief the current system doesn’t allow legislators enough time to become familiar with the needs of their constituents and how the legislature works before they are forced to leave. “We think the state deserves legislators with enough experience to be effective,” Johnston says.
Johnston, a Traverse City native, also says that while some candidates are able to translate experience in one chamber into the other, that’s usually not the case. “There are more house members than senators,” he says, meaning those who are term-limited after serving in the house have fewer opportunities to run for the state senate. “Most legislators aren’t there 14 years.”
He says the MMA and the other groups supporting the proposal, including the League of Women Voters, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and several city and regional chambers, Michigan AFL-CIO, and the Michigan Education Association, believe those running for the positions should also disclose certain financial information. Such transparency would be similar to those seeking federal positions.
The second proposal on the ballot, known as “Promote the Vote,” would make a host of changes to state election procedures. Among other updates, it would allow nine days of early voting and expanded access to absentee voting and would continue to allow registered voters who show up on Election Day without a state ID to vote after signing an affidavit attesting to their identity.
The bipartisan Board of State Canvassers deadlocked 2-2 when presented with the original initiative and failed to place the proposal on the November ballot. But the Michigan Supreme Court in September ordered the board to certify both Proposals 2 and 3.
Those opposing the measure say it would open the door to abuse, as well as potentially increase costs. Critics also say the proposal would nullify several state laws, including the state legislature’s ability to exclude incarcerated people or those of “mental incompetence” from voting.
Among those supporting the proposal are Promote the Vote Michigan, the ACLU of Michigan, League of Women Voters of Michigan, All Voting is Local, and Voters Not Politicians. The coalition says the measure offers flexibility for voters to cast their ballots, makes elections more accessible, and ensures election security as well as voter privacy.
Christina Schlitt of Frederic is co-president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan. She says the proposal, if passed, would enhance voting in a number of ways. “It would make voting more convenient. It also [ensures] military overseas get ballots counted. It will enshrine current voter ID laws,” she says.
State law mandates that voters provide a photo ID when they vote. If they do not, they have to sign a legal affidavit stating they are who they say they are. If found to have lied, they are guilty of a misdemeanor. The current proposal does not change that, but codifies it into the constitution. “Opponents are making that a huge issue. Prop 2 does not eliminate ID [requirements]. That’s a plain old lie,” she says.
Schlitt says the League of Women Voters originated more than 100 years ago as an advocacy group promoting the right of women to vote. While recognized for its numerous voter forums throughout the state, it still advocates on certain issues. “Proposal 2 eliminates alternate voters and alternate facts. It eliminates many of the aspects of challenging elections. It enshrines the current effective system [in the state constitution].”
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s dismissing the supposedly-settled Roe v. Wade, many states around the country moved to make abortion illegal. Michigan already had a law on the books prohibiting the procedure from 1931. Dubbed Reproductive Freedom For All, Proposal 3 would write a broad new right to reproductive freedom into the Michigan Constitution.
Those opposing the initiative, including Right to Life and the Michigan Catholic Conference, mostly oppose abortion in general. They also argue it would invalidate other existing abortion regulations, including a parental consent law for minors that lawmakers approved in 1991 after a separate petition drive by Right to Life of Michigan. If approved, the fate of that and other regulations may depend on future court rulings.
Benzie County resident Michael Hertz, MD, is among those supporting the measure. “I came to reproductive justice while still in med school,” he says. “I’ve been an advocate for 42-plus years. Pre-Roe v. Wade was a public health disaster for women.”
He said the procedure became “part and parcel of obstetrics and gynecology.” As such, abortions were initially most often performed in hospitals. “It wasn’t until the rise of the anti-abortion movement that they weren’t done in hospitals.”
He’s optimistic the uproar created by the Supreme Court decision will push the proposal to passage. “It has generated an amazing amount of support in the electorate and general public. Nearly two-thirds of the population believes abortion should be legal in almost all circumstances. That number hasn’t changed.”
In reference to Proposal 3, he adds, “It blocks the 1931 law still on the books, [which is] out of date and out of touch.”
Photo by Tara Winstead