At the November 2, 2010 general election, the voters of Michigan will decide whether to call a constitutional convention to revise the 1963 Michigan Constitution. The question appears on the ballot automatically every 16 years as required by the Constitution. The Constitution provides that a convention would convene in Lansing on October 4, 2011. If the question is rejected, it will automatically appear on the ballot again in the year 2026
The Citizens Research Council of Michigan takes no position on the question of calling a constitutional convention. It is hoped that examination of the matters identified in this paper will promote discussion of vital constitutional issues and assist citizens in deliberations on the question of calling a constitutional convention.
The powers of a state government are plenary, except to the extent they are constitutionally limited. The purpose of a bill of rights is to enumerate those basic individual liberties that the people intend to be secure from impairment by the actions of their government. Both the Constitution of the United States and the Michigan Constitution contain such enumerations. This analysis examines the dual role that a state bill of rights fulfills: according concurrent protection to individual liberties which also are protected under the federal Constitution and serving as an independent source for individual liberties which are not accorded recognition at the federal level. It also examines recent trends in amending Article I of the 1963 Michigan Constitution.
Article I of the Michigan Constitution entitled, “Declaration of Rights,” sets forth basic individual liberties which are to be secure from impairment by the actions of state government. Many of these individual liberties are similar to those found in the federal Bill of Rights. For example, both the Michigan Constitution and the federal Bill of Rights accord the right to an equal protection of the laws and of the people peaceably to assemble. Both recognize freedom of religious worship, freedom of expression and of the press, and both prohibit depriving a person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. Given these similarities, the question may be asked whether such an enumeration of rights in the Michigan Constitution is needed, given that they also are protected under the federal Constitution. For several reasons, this question should be answered in the affirmative.