June 27, 2019

Ballot Proposals — Easy as 1, 2, 3

Guest Column
By Amy Kerr Hardin | Oct. 27, 2018

Michigan voters have a once in a generation opportunity to send a strong message to Lansing next week. Three ballot proposals, each unique unto itself, and borne of their own sources, are to be determined through our electoral process.

Compared to other states, Michigan’s ballot is actually an easy read. The number of proposals on a typical California ticket is cause enough to stick a finger in one’s eye. In each precinct there, voters are handed a hefty tome. Coroners are brought in to retrieve the skeletal remains of baffled ballot casters who expired whilst deciphering the meaning and intent of the vast array of citizen-driven policy initiatives. 

Mitten friends, however … count yourselves lucky. Yet, do pay heed to your three important statewide options.

We are deep into the season politicos call “the pollercoaster,” when our phones ring nonstop right up to election eve. Toward the end, it’s mostly robo calls and “push” polls — i.e., fake polls intended to sway voters: “Would you still vote for so-and-so knowing that they juggle flaming babies?”

Polling on ballot measures tends to be a little more accurate than on candidates. So let’s examine where Michigan’s proposals stand with the body politic.

Prop 1 – A yes vote will legalize pot for those 21 and older. One would think that given the Republican penchant to monetize anything and everything, this would be a no brainer.  Two polls found support hovering at around 55 percent, yet local 86th district court candidate Bob Cooney and his GOP homeboy, attorney general and gubernatorial hopeful Bill Schuette want to toss Nana in the clink for taking edibles to ease her aching knees. They have been up front in their opposition to legalization and medicinal usage — as have law enforcement agencies, claiming it will increase traffic accidents, which it may well. But the true impetus behind police opposition lies in the lost revenues from asset forfeiture: They find some herb in your glove box, and you’ve just lost your ride at a police auction.

The Senate Fiscal Agency, the policy wizards that crunch the numbers, estimate that the state could haul in just under $300 million in tax revenues from the 10 percent excise and 6 percent sales tax on legal pot sales. Plus, there would be an additional $22 million from licensing fees to shore up budgetary shortfalls. Problem is, that windfall might not “tickle down” to local law enforcement. 

 

The Republican-led legislature could have voted legalization into law when it was approved for the ballot, as the constitution allows, but they just didn’t have the stomach for it. They are taking a political risk because the measure will be a major get-out-the-vote driver for progressives.

Prop 2 – A yes vote on this will create a non-partisan commission to redraw voting districts — in theory, to end gerrymandering — the practice of drawing districts shaped more like Rorschach tests than anything appropriate or logical. It’s done with the intention of favoring one party over the other. Michigan is one of the worst states in terms of gerrymandering. As the lines are currently drawn, the votes of Democrats don’t count in many areas.

At this time, a plurality of voters support the proposal, with 48 percent in favor, 32 percent against, and one-fifth remaining undecided. Unfortunately, ballot measures on which voters feel uncertain tend to garner a hasty “no” vote on election day. Voter education is key to success with this measure. Democrats and Independents strongly favor the prop, but Republicans are giving it a solid thumbs down.

Colorado voters face a similar ballot question, and it is backed by none other than that state’s Chamber of Commerce. They want to clean up the mess. Not so here; Michigan’s Chamber is fighting it tooth and nail. They want to keep the GOP in a position of permanent power in Lansing.

A federal lawsuit challenging gerrymandering brought by the Michigan League of Women Voters recently revealed emails from GOP incumbents, donors, and operatives that clearly show intent to manipulate districts in their favor. The damning correspondence demonstrated complete acquiescence to the whims of Republican incumbents. They were literally choosing their voters. If the proposition fails, this lawsuit might still curb gerrymandering in Michigan.

Prop 3 – A yes vote here will amend the constitution with critical reforms needed to make voting easier in Michigan. Among them are no-reason absentee ballots, easier registration, restoration of straight-party voting, and a requirement for election result audits.

A whopping 70 percent of those polled gave it the nod, with only 24 percent taking a pass on the measure. One pollster noted that “the ballot language itself sells Proposal 3.” 

An opposition group, the Michigan Freedom Fund, ostensibly claim this constitutional amendment would kneecap the legislative process — making it difficult for lawmakers to make further purported improvements to the voting process. That’s Republican code for increasing suppression of votes by black and brown people, along with students and Democrats at large. Constitutional amendments are sacrosanct. They are immune to political tinkering. That’s the whole idea behind this initiative.

In short, Prop 1 is just common sense, long overdue, and a decent revenue stream. Prop 2 makes your vote actually count — democracy in action. And Prop 3 protects your ability to even cast a ballot — more democracy.

Vote yes, yes, and yes.

Nov. 6 is just days away, and all those pesky phone calls will cease … for about 3 days. Then the 2020 presidential race will ramp up.

Amy Kerr Hardin is a retired banker, a regionally known artist, and a public-policy wonk and political essayist at Democracy-Tree.com.

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