Over CRC’s 100 year history, it has made an outsized impact for such a small organization. This is the second in a series of blog posts highlighting CRC’s top projects and reports since its inception in 1916.
The drafters of Michigan’s state constitution, approved by voters in 1963, were largely and integrally informed by objective, nonpartisan research conducted by the Citizens Research Council in 1961 and 1962. In fact, CRC’s work for the Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) was the single biggest project of CRC’s history.
In April 1961, Michigan voters approved a Constitutional Convention, paving the way for statewide elected delegates to draft a new constitution to be submitted to the voters for approval. During the nine month period the delegates met, CRC provided them with a program of research that included:
- A Comparative Analysis of the Michigan Constitution. This massive two-volume 700+ page work analyzed each section of the 1908 Constitution and compared provisions to similar ones in the Model State Constitution prepared by the National Municipal League. Con-Con delegates frequently referred to this report.
- Research papers on constitutional issues including the nature and purpose of a state constitution, municipal and county home rule, state finance provisions, and earmarking of state revenues.
- A series of 12 papers providing running commentary on the progress of the convention and its consideration of significant issues such as taxes and finance, legislative apportionment, and executive branch reorganization.
On May 9, 1962, following the conclusion of its work, the Constitutional Convention adopted a “Resolution of Thanks and Appreciation” to CRC. It noted that CRC’s work was “extensively used” by the convention and was “highly objective and of material aid to its deliberations.”
Following its role in providing convention delegates with its research, CRC undertook the task of informing voters of the content of the constitution upon which they would be voting. CRC prepared a 40-page Digest of the Proposed Constitution and printed and distributed 250,000 copies. CRC researchers explained the proposed constitution on 15 statewide radio broadcasts and made numerous television appearances. Then, despite its small staff, CRC conducted a series of seminars in virtually every community of 3,000 or more, in front of audiences large and small. Bob Pickup, CRC’s President at the time, estimated that CRC met with two percent of Michigan voters; roughly 50,000 to 60,000 people.
On April 1, 1963, Michigan voters narrowly approved the new Constitution by a vote of 810,860 to 803,436 and it became effective on January 1, 1964. CRC has monitored the Michigan Constitution and the numerous attempts to amend it ever since.