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.
Should a constitutional convention be convened, it would likely be called upon to amend or delete inoperative and obsolete provisions in Article II and to examine the article’s provisions related to direct democracy.
Article II of the 1963 Michigan Constitution 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.
Inoperative and Obsolete Provisions
State constitutions may not violate the provisions of the United States Constitution. The language of a state constitution should reflect the reality of the law and should be understandable to citizens. Provisions of the state constitution that are inoperable because they violate the provisions of the federal constitution make the language of the state constitution confusing and misleading. Inoperative provisions should be removed or revised to reflect the current state of the law. Sections 1, 6, and 10 of Article II of the Michigan Constitution are not consistent with the provisions of the federal constitution.
Qualifications of Electors
Article II, Section 1 sets the minimum voting age in Michigan at 21 and creates residency requirements. In 1970, President Nixon signed an extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, setting a minimum voting age of 18 in all federal, state, and local elections. Oregon and Texas successfully challenged that part of the law; in Oregon v. Mitchell, 400 U.S. 112 (1970), a divided U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional that section of the federal law that applied to state and local elections. This raised the possibility that states that had established minimum voting ages other than 18 would have to maintain two sets of voter registration records, one for federal elections and one for state and local elections.