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 examine the provisions of Article III, General Government. Among the eight sections in Article III are two that are of special interest from a public policy perspective (and one of those only because of the use of the word “militia,” the popular association of which has changed over time).
Article III of the current Michigan Constitution contains provisions relating to the general structure of the state government. In Section 1, Lansing is designated as the state capital (in 1847, the state legislature determined that Detroit’s location on the border made it vulnerable to invasion by British forces in Canada and relocated the capital to Lansing). The state government is organized into legislative, executive, and judicial branches, patterned on the federal model (Section 2). Section 7 provides that laws in force at the time of adoption of the constitution, and not contradicted by the constitution, remain in force. The governor and legislature are authorized to ask the opinion of the state supreme court on important questions of law (Section 8).
Constitutional Convention Issues
If the people of Michigan decide to call a state constitutional convention, it is likely such a convention would take a closer look at three sections of Article III.
Section 4 provides that “The militia shall be organized, equipped and disciplined as provided by law.” The militia referred to in Section 4 should not be confused with the Michigan Militia, a volunteer organization which at one time claimed over 10,000 members. Rather, the militia referred to in Section 4, now known as the Michigan National Guard, has a history that predates Michigan statehood. This history is recounted in detail on the website of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.