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CRC Column

The right to criticize government is also an obligation to know what you are talking about. 
-Lent Upson, 1st Executive Director of CRC  


Citizenship, Politics, Apportionment, and Elections Issues

Open Meetings, open records

Basis of Representation & Apportionment Generally

Congressional and Legislative Redistricting Reform
Report 370 ( May 2011 ) 45 pages

Michigan's legislature currently has a relatively free hand in the redistricting process. Language establishing a redistricting process in Michigan's Constitution has been ruled invalid by the Michigan Supreme Court. Without a constitutional framework, the legislature can rewrite statutory guidelines as part of the redistricting process. The only redistricting restrictions on the legislature are the limited constraints contained in the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Michigan legislature is preparing to redraw the state's legislative and congressional districts. The Citizens Research Council of Michigan recommends that as part of this process the legislature should also propose changes to Michigan's Constitution to guide future redistricting efforts.

CRC outlines a number of recommended changes to Michigan's redistricting process. Specifically, CRC recommends a number of provisions be added to the Michigan Constitution including the following:

  • Recreate a redistricting commission,
  • Limit redistricting to once per decade,
  • Describe the appropriate redistricting procedures and timeline,
  • Increase transparency and public engagement,
  • Protect electors' right to challenge redistricting plans,
  • Minimize population variance among districts,
  • Ensure contiguous single-member districts,
  • Create district boundaries that adhere to political boundaries, and
  • Protect communities of interest.

Article IV -- Legislative Branch
Report 360-07 ( May 2010 ) 11 pages

The seventh in the Citizens Research Council of Michigan's series of papers about state constitutional issues focuses on the Legislative Branch -- Article IV of the 1963 Michigan Constitution.

The 2010 U.S. Census is on-going, the results of which will be used over the next decade for a host of important governmental functions, including determining Michigan's representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and allocating billions of dollars of federal aid to the state. The census results also will be used to determine the size and geographic structure of Michigan's 38 senatorial and 110 house districts.

The process of determining legislative districts will be carried out by the Michigan Legislature because the current constitutional provisions addressing the topic were ruled unconstitutional over 45 years ago and absent constitutional language to the contrary, the responsibility for crafting these districts falls to the legislative branch of government.

In light of the invalid language, Craig Thiel of CRC said "The current constitution is silent on three important issues: 1) it does not specify what body, agency, or official is responsible for the process; 2) it does not list the state-specific standards that govern the process; and 3) it does not indicate how often the process is to take place."

Given the importance of the matter to the electoral process, a constitutional convention, should one be convened, would most likely concentrate attention on the provisions in Article IV that deal with redistricting. At a minimum, a convention would be expected to eliminate the current language and replace it with valid language that addresses: who, how, and when.

The latest in CRC's series of papers on constitutional issues, Article IV - Legislative Branch, analyzes the deficiencies related to redistricting and other provisions of Article IV. In addition to redistricting, Article IV also contains provisions that involve the legislative institution itself; its structure, organization, and procedures. It is likely a convention would weigh in on issues dealing with size of the two legislative chambers (Sections 2 and 3), how often the body meets in session (e.g., full-time or part-time), and setting legislative compensation levels (Section 12).

Michigan's restrictive, life-time legislative term limitations might be an issue considered by a constitutional convention. Michigan adopted term limits for senate (2 terms) and house (3 terms) members in 1992 (Section 54) and while term limit revisions in other states have not taken place, the issue continues to be debated in Michigan.

pdf File Where Reapportionment Stands Today
Memo, ( March 1992 ) 5 pages

Speech given before the American Society for Public Administration (Michigan Capitol Area Chapter) about the status of apportionment in Michigan.

pdf File The Legislative Apportionment Predicament
CC 942, ( June 83 ) 4 pages

The inadequacies of state law were again apparent in the 1982 reapportionment effort when the apportionment commission once again deadlocked and turned the matter over to the Michigan Supreme Court. This time the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that all apportionment provisions of the Michigan constitution became null and void with the 1964 U.S. Supreme Court decision. The court found that both standards and process are "inextricably intertwined" and the apportionment commission cannot survive without apportionment rules. This decision means that rather than merely having inadequacies in the basic law, Michigan is without basic law to govern this vital concern. Clearly, a new reapportionment process designed to produce legislative districts that are fairly drawn in conformance with specific standards is imperative - the fair and effective representation of Michigan citizens is at stake.

Citizen Control of Government & To Be Voted Upon: Direct Versus Indirect Administration; For Water Filtration; For Continuing Sewer Construction
Public Business No. 51 ( July 15, 1920 ) 8 pages

The first article explores the role of governmental research organizations in state and local government. The second article provides some explanation for three charter amendments and two propositions to issue bonds that appeared on the August 31, 1920, primary election. They included: A charter amendment to increase the number of supervisors representing Detroit on the Board of Supervisors of Wayne County; a charter amendment to provide for a single Commissioner of Recreation in place of the present Recreation Commission; a charter amendment to change the section applying to the Department of Buildings and Safety Engineering. Two propositions sought voter approval to issue a total of $37 million for public works improvements and extensions of the sewer system into newly annexed territory.

Apportionment - State Legislatures

Congressional and Legislative Redistricting Reform
Report 370 ( May 2011 ) 45 pages

Michigan's legislature currently has a relatively free hand in the redistricting process. Language establishing a redistricting process in Michigan's Constitution has been ruled invalid by the Michigan Supreme Court. Without a constitutional framework, the legislature can rewrite statutory guidelines as part of the redistricting process. The only redistricting restrictions on the legislature are the limited constraints contained in the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Michigan legislature is preparing to redraw the state's legislative and congressional districts. The Citizens Research Council of Michigan recommends that as part of this process the legislature should also propose changes to Michigan's Constitution to guide future redistricting efforts.

CRC recommends a number of provisions be added to the Michigan Constitution including the following:

  • Recreate a redistricting commission,
  • Limit redistricting to once per decade,
  • Describe the appropriate redistricting procedures and timeline,
  • Increase transparency and public engagement,
  • Protect electors' right to challenge redistricting plans,
  • Minimize population variance among districts,
  • Ensure contiguous single-member districts,
  • Create district boundaries that adhere to political boundaries, and
  • Protect communities of interest.

pdf File Legislative Apportionment in Michigan
Report 303, ( December 91 ) 28 pages

--- See also CC #1002 --- Examined the difficulties which have attended legislative apportionment in Michigan after the 1960, 1970, 1980, and 1990 decennial censuses; the constitutional and judicial history of legislative apportionment, and the impact of federal voting rights legislation.

CC 1002, ../pdf FileLegislative Apportionment in Michigan --- Summarizes Report #303 --- ( December 1991 ) 4 pages [35,216 bytes]

CC 911, Legislative Apportionment in Michigan ( May 1980 ) 4 pages

Nominations

Primaries, primary election laws

Elections (voting guides, voting behavior, ballot issues)

Local Ballot Issues in the 2006 General Election

This paper analyses the results of local ballot proposals related to tax and governance issues. This is the third analysis of local ballot results in the past four years. Tax issues tended to be successful in past elections (52.3% approval in 2002 and 59.2% approval in 2004), but tax issues in the 2006 general election were only successful 47.6% of the time. Almost half of the governance issues were submitted by cities and villages seeking voter approval of revised charters or amendments to their existing charters. Less than one third of these issues received voter approval.

PDF File Local Ballot Issues in the 2004 General Election,
Note 2005-01, ( February 2004 ) 4 pages

Local units of government in Michigan presented their voters with 459 issues on November 2, 2004. Almost three-quarters of the issues involved taxes. The remainder consisted of various governance issues. CRC has summarized the results of those elections.

PDF File Local Ballot Issues in the 2002 General Election,
Note 2003-01, ( March 2003 ) 4 pages

Using a list of local ballot issues compiled by the Michigan Department of State and Publius.org, CRC analyzed the 412 ballot issues-45 county, 84 city, 269 township, and 14 special authority-to determine the kinds of issues voted on in the November 2002 general election and the outcomes of the votes.

Rescuing Voting from the Long Ballot,
Misc., ( January 1999 )

Michiganders are asked to vote on too many offices and on too many issues. As a result, we threaten to cheapen and undermine a process that is at the very core of our democratic system.

The Long Ballot in Michigan (statewide and selected local officials)
CC 951 ( November 84 ) 4 pages

Voters in Michigan are asked to elect a large number of state and local government officials, so many in fact, that some jurisdictions had to use paper ballots to supplement voting machines in the general election of 1984.

Misc., Detailed Tabulation of Elective Offices in Michigan --- See CC #951 ( October 84 ) 6 pages

Election Laws

PDF File The "Massachusetts Ballot" -- A November Decision CC 757 ( September 64 ) 4 pages

Initiative, Referendum, Recall

Reform of Michigan’s Ballot Question Process
Report 386 ( Janury 2014 ) 113 pages

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan has released a comprehensive study of the laws and procedures for getting constitutional amendments, initiatives and referendums to the ballot and bringing those questions to a vote. This study was spurred by a seeming growing sense of voter frustration with Michigan’s tools for direct democracy that was felt during the campaigns for the six questions that appeared on the November 2012 ballot.

Reform of Michigan’s Ballot Question Process looks at the ways questions make it to the ballot and compares Michigan’s processes and restrictions to those in place in other states. It looks at the laws that apply to paid petition circulators, the need to better inform petition signers, the petition certification process, and potential campaign and electioneering reform.

The primary recommendations of the report are for the state to require ballot question proponents to apply to the state before circulating petitions and for greater disclosure of those that finance support or opposition to the ballot question campaigns. Changing to front-load the petition certification process would clarify the roles of Secretary of State, Board of State Canvassers, Attorney General, and others involved in the process; eliminate 11th hour races to courts to challenge font size or the substance of proposals; and improve voter confidence in whole process.

“People need more information about the proposals being put before them,” said Eric Lupher, CRC’s Director of Local Affairs. “Moving to a front-loaded certification process would allow for drafting of the 100 word descriptions for inclusion on the petitions; it would allow for analysis of the ballot questions by disinterested parties either inside or outside of government for voters to read before signing petitions; and it would allow for early legal review of the proposals, perhaps copying the process used in other states wherein the opponents and proponents are empowered to write arguments making the case for a yes or no vote on the questions.”

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court said that funding disclosure for issue ads could be justified because of the “government interest” in providing the electorate with information regarding election-related spending resources. It left it to the states to establish funding disclosure laws.

“Ballot question campaigning and electioneering is the purest form of issue ads,” said Mr. Lupher. “While Michigan and other states have been embroiled in how funding disclosure laws should apply to political and judicial candidates, those issues need to be separated from ballot issue campaign funding laws to bring more sunshine to the Michigan voters.”

A Summary of the November 2012 Statewide Ballot Issues
Memo 1122 ( October 2012 ) 4 pages

On November 6, 2012, Michigan voters will vote on a referendum and decide whether to amend the Michigan Constitution with five proposed amendments.

This paper a summary of the six statewide ballot proposals to provide brief explanations of each question, identify the implications if each question passes or is rejected, and offer some major issues to consider. The content is based on the more in-depth analyses of each question.

Michigan's Recall Election Law
Report 379 ( June 2012 ) 39 pages

While Wisconsin's gubernatorial recall election may be grabbing headlines this week, the reality is that recall is much more common in Michigan than in Wisconsin. A new report by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, Michigan's Recall Election Law provides an in-depth examination of this topic and looks at trends in Michigan's use of recall, state law, and how Michigan's recall provisions vary from other states.

At least 457 state and local elected officials faced a recall election in Michigan between 2000 and 2011, an average of 38 per year. Although recall attempts aimed at state office holders garner the most attention, recall is primarily a local phenomenon. Just two of the 457 recall elections involved state officials (Speaker of the House Andy Dillon in 2008 and State Representative Paul Scott in 2011).

Recall elections in Michigan have been overwhelming targeted at non-county general purpose local governments (cities, villages, and townships). City, village, and township officials comprise 67 percent of the elected officials eligible to be recalled and 89 percent of those subjected to recalls during this time period. Township officials alone represent 41 percent of the elected officials eligible to be recalled and 65 percent of those subjected to recalls during this time period.

Compared to other states, Michigan appears to have a high number of recall elections. Reasons for Michigan's large number of recall elections include its high number of elected officials relative to other states as well as certain provisions in Michigan's recall law such as allowing recalls for political reasons rather than limiting recall to specific reasons such as misfeasance or malfeasance.

CRC finds that the financial cost associated with recall elections is relatively low. Based on one set of assumptions, the cost of recall elections to Michigan's local governments in 2011 was $133,713.

"Critics of recall argue that the device can deter elected officials from making difficult but necessary decisions by striking fear into the deliberative process." said CRC Earhart Fellow Mike King. "However, recall proponents counter that elected officials should pay close attention to their constituents, and that what critics fear is a distraction is actually the path to good governance."

Article II - Elections
Report 360-05 ( April 2010 ) 9 pages

The fifth in the Citizens Research Council of Michigan's series of papers about state constitutional issues focuses on Elections -- Article II of the 1963 Michigan Constitution.

Article II deals with elections, and contains two original sections that are obsolete and one section added by initiative petition, the intent of which the United States Supreme Court has determined to be unconstitutional. Article II also contains sections pertaining to direct democracy: recall, initiative, and referendum. This article also establishes, but does not define the role of, the State Board of Canvassers, whose members have on several occasions challenged its traditional ministerial role.

The language of a state constitution should reflect the reality of the law and should be understandable to citizens. Michigan's constitutional provisions for voting age, residency requirements, property ownership, and term limits for the state's congressional delegation are inoperative because of conflicts with the U.S. Constitution.

Although the role of the State Board of Canvassers is currently defined statutorily, a constitutional convention may wish to clarify the extent of the board's authority, especially as it relates to the provisions for direct democracy.

Finally, a constitutional convention may wish to consider whether Michigan should continue to allow recalls, initiatives, and referenda. If their use is continued, a con-con could address the ease or difficulty of placing questions on the ballot.

State Ballot Issues on the November General Election Ballot Proposal 02-01: Straight-Ticket Voting; Proposal 02-02: Great Lakes Water Quality Bond Authorization Act,
CRC Memo 1065, ( September 2002 ) 8 pages

Proposal 02-01 is a statutory referendum on Public Act 269 of 2001, which would institute certain changes in voting procedures, including elimination of straight-party voting. Proposal 02-02 asks for voter approval of a $1 billion bond issue over 10 years to assist local communities in sewer construction and control of nonpoint source pollution.

Report 313-4, pdf File Michigan Constitutional Issues ... Elections And Term Limitation Provisions In The Michigan Constitution, Examines provisions of Article 2 that a constitution convention might consider: obsolete provisions; the functioning of the board of state canvassers; and details relating to the powers of initiative and referendum ( July 1994 ) 4 pages [29,474 bytes]

PDF File The Long Ballot in Michigan
CC 951, ( November 84 ) 4 pages

Voters in Michigan are asked to elect a large number of state and local government officials, so many in fact, that some jurisdictions had to use paper ballots to supplement voting machines in the general election of 1984.

Presidential elections; electoral college

Initiative, Referendum, Recall

Inserting Legal Code into the Michigan Constitution
Memo 1115 ( September 2012 ) 4 pages

Following the ruling of the Michigan Supreme Court this week, Michigan electors are in line to vote on five proposed constitutional amendments at the November 6, 2012, general election dealing with matters of renewable energy, unionization of home health care workers, collective bargaining, state tax limitation, and international crossings. A review of the proposed amendments reveals that several are quite lengthy, go into substantial technical detail, and deal with issues that would be found in statutory law, not in the constitutions, of most states.

This paper explores the seemingly increased trend of policy advocates targeting the constitution in their initiative efforts rather than attempting to initiate law.

Michigan's Recall Election Law
Report 379 ( June 2012 ) 39 pages

While Wisconsin's gubernatorial recall election may be grabbing headlines this week, the reality is that recall is much more common in Michigan than in Wisconsin. A new report by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, Michigan's Recall Election Law provides an in-depth examination of this topic and looks at trends in Michigan's use of recall, state law, and how Michigan's recall provisions vary from other states.

At least 457 state and local elected officials faced a recall election in Michigan between 2000 and 2011, an average of 38 per year. Although recall attempts aimed at state office holders garner the most attention, recall is primarily a local phenomenon. Just two of the 457 recall elections involved state officials (Speaker of the House Andy Dillon in 2008 and State Representative Paul Scott in 2011).

Recall elections in Michigan have been overwhelming targeted at non-county general purpose local governments (cities, villages, and townships). City, village, and township officials comprise 67 percent of the elected officials eligible to be recalled and 89 percent of those subjected to recalls during this time period. Township officials alone represent 41 percent of the elected officials eligible to be recalled and 65 percent of those subjected to recalls during this time period.

Compared to other states, Michigan appears to have a high number of recall elections. Reasons for Michigan's large number of recall elections include its high number of elected officials relative to other states as well as certain provisions in Michigan's recall law such as allowing recalls for political reasons rather than limiting recall to specific reasons such as misfeasance or malfeasance.

CRC finds that the financial cost associated with recall elections is relatively low. Based on one set of assumptions, the cost of recall elections to Michigan's local governments in 2011 was $133,713.

"Critics of recall argue that the device can deter elected officials from making difficult but necessary decisions by striking fear into the deliberative process." said CRC Earhart Fellow Mike King. "However, recall proponents counter that elected officials should pay close attention to their constituents, and that what critics fear is a distraction is actually the path to good governance."

Article II - Elections
Report 360-05 ( April 2010 ) 9 pages

The fifth in the Citizens Research Council of Michigan's series of papers about state constitutional issues focuses on Elections -- Article II of the 1963 Michigan Constitution.

Article II deals with elections, and contains two original sections that are obsolete and one section added by initiative petition, the intent of which the United States Supreme Court has determined to be unconstitutional. Article II also contains sections pertaining to direct democracy: recall, initiative, and referendum. This article also establishes, but does not define the role of, the State Board of Canvassers, whose members have on several occasions challenged its traditional ministerial role.

The language of a state constitution should reflect the reality of the law and should be understandable to citizens. Michigan's constitutional provisions for voting age, residency requirements, property ownership, and term limits for the state's congressional delegation are inoperative because of conflicts with the U.S. Constitution.

Although the role of the State Board of Canvassers is currently defined statutorily, a constitutional convention may wish to clarify the extent of the board's authority, especially as it relates to the provisions for direct democracy.

Finally, a constitutional convention may wish to consider whether Michigan should continue to allow recalls, initiatives, and referenda. If their use is continued, a con-con could address the ease or difficulty of placing questions on the ballot.

pdf FILE Issues Relative to the Initiative Petition to Reduce Property Assessment Ratios
Memo ( September 90 ) 5 pages

Examined the statutory initiative process; the meaning of the term "session days" and other related issues.

Term Limitations

Article IV -- Legislative Branch
Report 360-07 ( May 2010 ) 11 pages

The seventh in the Citizens Research Council of Michigan's series of papers about state constitutional issues focuses on the Legislative Branch -- Article IV of the 1963 Michigan Constitution.

The 2010 U.S. Census is on-going, the results of which will be used over the next decade for a host of important governmental functions, including determining Michigan's representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and allocating billions of dollars of federal aid to the state. The census results also will be used to determine the size and geographic structure of Michigan's 38 senatorial and 110 house districts.

The process of determining legislative districts will be carried out by the Michigan Legislature because the current constitutional provisions addressing the topic were ruled unconstitutional over 45 years ago and absent constitutional language to the contrary, the responsibility for crafting these districts falls to the legislative branch of government.

In light of the invalid language, Craig Thiel of CRC said "The current constitution is silent on three important issues: 1) it does not specify what body, agency, or official is responsible for the process; 2) it does not list the state-specific standards that govern the process; and 3) it does not indicate how often the process is to take place."

Given the importance of the matter to the electoral process, a constitutional convention, should one be convened, would most likely concentrate attention on the provisions in Article IV that deal with redistricting. At a minimum, a convention would be expected to eliminate the current language and replace it with valid language that addresses: who, how, and when.

The latest in CRC's series of papers on constitutional issues, Article IV - Legislative Branch, analyzes the deficiencies related to redistricting and other provisions of Article IV. In addition to redistricting, Article IV also contains provisions that involve the legislative institution itself; its structure, organization, and procedures. It is likely a convention would weigh in on issues dealing with size of the two legislative chambers (Sections 2 and 3), how often the body meets in session (e.g., full-time or part-time), and setting legislative compensation levels (Section 12).

Michigan's restrictive, life-time legislative term limitations might be an issue considered by a constitutional convention. Michigan adopted term limits for senate (2 terms) and house (3 terms) members in 1992 (Section 54) and while term limit revisions in other states have not taken place, the issue continues to be debated in Michigan.

Article II - Elections
Report 360-05 ( April 2010 ) 9 pages

The fifth in the Citizens Research Council of Michigan's series of papers about state constitutional issues focuses on Elections -- Article II of the 1963 Michigan Constitution.

Article II deals with elections, and contains two original sections that are obsolete and one section added by initiative petition, the intent of which the United States Supreme Court has determined to be unconstitutional. Article II also contains sections pertaining to direct democracy: recall, initiative, and referendum. This article also establishes, but does not define the role of, the State Board of Canvassers, whose members have on several occasions challenged its traditional ministerial role.

The language of a state constitution should reflect the reality of the law and should be understandable to citizens. Michigan's constitutional provisions for voting age, residency requirements, property ownership, and term limits for the state's congressional delegation are inoperative because of conflicts with the U.S. Constitution.

Although the role of the State Board of Canvassers is currently defined statutorily, a constitutional convention may wish to clarify the extent of the board's authority, especially as it relates to the provisions for direct democracy.

Finally, a constitutional convention may wish to consider whether Michigan should continue to allow recalls, initiatives, and referenda. If their use is continued, a con-con could address the ease or difficulty of placing questions on the ballot.

Legislative Term Limits and Full-Time and Part-Time Legislatures
Note 2007-03, ( June 2007 ) 4 pages

Proposals for a part time legislature have resurfaced in Lansing as part of discussions on restructuring and reducing the cost of state government. Unless the state's Constitution is amended, any proposed new restrictions on the duration of legislative sessions would be superimposed on Michigan's existing legislative term limits, which are among the most restrictive in the nation. In its most recent CRC Note, Citizens Research Council examines the interplay of term limits and full- and part-time legislatures in the 50 states.

Michigan is one of only four states that have a full-time legislature that is paid accordingly; seven other states have a nearly full-time legislature. Of the 15 states that currently have legislative term limits, Michigan and California have true full-time legislatures, while Florida and Ohio have nearly full-time legislatures. Term limited legislatures in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma are considered hybrid, in that legislators typically spend about two-thirds of the time that would be required by a full-time job, although regular legislative sessions may be scheduled for only a few months of the year. Maine, Montana, Nevada, and South Dakota have both legislative term limits and part-time legislatures, in which legislators spend less than half of the time that a full-time job would require.

Michigan is in the ironic position of having no restrictions on the length of its legislative sessions while at the same time having one of the most stringent term limit restrictions in the nation.

Report 313-4, pdf File Michigan Constitutional Issues ... Elections And Term Limitation Provisions In The Michigan Constitution, Examines provisions of Article 2 that a constitution convention might consider: obsolete provisions; the functioning of the board of state canvassers; and details relating to the powers of initiative and referendum ( July 1994 ) 4 pages [29,474 bytes]

Report 310-12, pdf File Detroit City Charter Revision Issues ... Term Limitations For Local Officials, Examines local term limitation issues as they might apply to the elected officials in the City of Detroit ( October 1993 ) 2 pages [26,082 bytes]

CC 1010, ../pdf FileStatewide Ballot Proposals - I: Proposal B: Term Limitations, Analyzed the term limitation proposal for the Michigan congressional delegation and state elected officials which was on the statewide ballot at the November 1992 general election. ( September 92 ) 5 pages [42,027 bytes]

 

 

 

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Last Updated July 16, 2013