The Citizens Research Council of Michigan has released the fifteenth paper in a series focusing on constitutional issues. CRC is examining the state’s Constitution in anticipation of this November’s vote on whether Michigan should convene a constitutional convention. This paper focuses on Article XII of the 1963 Constitution – Amendment and Revision.
Alteration of individual provisions or provisions related to each other is called amendment. More extensive change, altering several unrelated provisions, is called revision. Article XII of the 1963 Michigan Constitution sets forth the ways in which amendment and revision of the basic Michigan governing document may occur.
The basic question concerning the process of altering the Michigan Constitution is whether it is, by some standard, too easy to do so. The 1963 Constitution has been amended 31 times since its adoption and, while this frequency does not appear to be out of line with other states, it may be argued that the Michigan Constitution is nevertheless accumulating a disproportionate number of provisions that should have been left to statute if, in fact, they should have been adopted at all. In addition, the Michigan Constitution has become a target of national groups wishing to establish their favored policies in the constitutions of those states that have the initiative.
“The threshold issue in any discussion of whether to make the Michigan Constitution more difficult to amend is whether to retain the voter initiative,” stated Jeffrey Guilfoyle, President of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. “If so, should obstacles be considered that would maintain the fundamental, enduring nature of a constitution but at the same time recognize the necessity of keeping it vital and relevant? Such obstacles might include higher signature requirements, signature distribution requirements, or extraordinary election requirements.”