Memorandum 1151 | September 2018
Voting and access to the ballot are fundamental to a thriving, well-functioning democracy. While all citizens have a responsibility to vote on Election Day, it falls to the government to ensure that all aspects of the voting process, from voter registration to election certification, are efficient, secure, fair, and accurate. The Michigan Constitution entrusts the state legislature with the responsibility “to regulate the time, place and manner of all elections,” except for instances where the Constitution specifically addresses aspects of the voting franchise. The legislature has enacted the Michigan Election Law to carry out its constitutional responsibility. The legislature, through a majority vote and with the approval of the governor, can change different aspects of the voting franchise.
If Proposal 2018-3 passes, a number of “voting rights” will be enshrined in the Michigan Constitution. Many of them are currently dealt with in state law. By including these rights in the state constitution, it will make it more difficult for the legislature to make changes to certain aspects of the voting franchise.
If Proposal 2018-3 is rejected, many of these “voting rights” would be enforced in current state law. Lawmakers will continue to be responsible for safeguarding voting in Michigan through state law and would have the prerogative of implementing in provisions not currently available. For example, if they wanted to adopt the automatic voter registration policy included in the ballot proposal, they would have to amend the Michigan Election Law to do so.
Major Issues to Consider: The key issue raised by the proposal deals less with the specific “voting rights” that would be included in the state constitution, than whether these policy preferences should be enshrined in the constitution. Most constitutional scholars believe that the state’s fundamental law should be reserved for establishing, defining, and limiting the basic powers of the government, stating general principles, and declaring the rights of citizens. Many of the policies contained in the proposal are ones that are essentially legislative matters that currently reside in the Michigan Election Law. Other states address these issues in statutory law as opposed to their state constitutions.