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February 10, 2010
Report 360-01

Michigan Constitutional Issues: General Revision of the Michigan Constitution

Proposal 2010-01 will ask Michigan voters whether a constitutional convention should be convened for the purpose of a general revision of the state Constitution. The 1963 Michigan Constitution provides in Article XII, Section 3, that in 1978 and every 16 years thereafter the question of a general revision of the constitution shall be submitted to the electors of the state.

Options for Michigan Voters

Proposal 2010-01 will ask Michigan electors to assess how well the fundamental law of the state serves as a framework for efficient, accountable government services that meets today’s economic and social needs. In November, voters will choose: to convene a constitutional convention to draft a revised constitution to deal in a holistic manner with issues perceived to be problematic; or to allow the 1963 Michigan Constitution to continue in its present form.

If Proposal 2010-01 is approved, Article XII, Section 3 of the Michigan Constitution requires a special primary and a special election to be held within six months to select convention delegates. Michigan’s election law provides for four elections in a calendar year, so the elections would occur in February and June of 2011. Article XII, Section 3 of the Constitution further provides that the electors of each representative district and the electors of each senatorial district shall elect one delegate to the convention.

The 1963 Constitution provides that the convention would convene in Lansing on October 4, 2011. The delegates are empowered to choose their own officers, determine the rules of proceedings and judge the qualifications, elections and returns of its members. The delegates will be compensated for their time and to incur additional cost through the appointment of such officers, employees, and assistants as it deems necessary; printing and distribution of documents, journals, and proceeds; and explanations and information dissemination about the proposed constitution. The Constitution does not dictate the length of time that a convention can use to draft a revised constitution.

If Proposal 2010-01 is rejected by the voters, the 1963 Constitution will remain in effect. The legislature and voters may continue to adapt the 1963 Constitution to future economic and social needs by offering amendments to reform specific sections viewed as problematic. If the question is rejected, it will automatically appear on the ballot again in the year 2026.

Michigan voters decided against similar ballot questions in 1978 (640,286 Yes to 2,112,549 No) and 1994 (777,779 Yes to 2,008,070 No). The 1963 Michigan Constitution has proven to be a living document, having been amended numerous times over the 45 years since its adoption.

Wholesale Revision

A state constitutional convention elected by the people is free to fashion any kind of document it pleases, subject only to restraints imposed by the United States Constitution as the supreme law of the land and subject, of course, to having its work ratified by the state’s electors. While Michigan‘s history with constitutional revision has tended to incrementally build on existing constitutions, nothing would bind a 2011 constitutional convention to such an approach.

Further, while a number of electors may agree upon issues in need of constitutional reform, there are no single, correct reforms to most of the large and important questions that would confront a convention. These are matters of opinion and judgment, and honest differences of view can readily be entertained.

February 10, 2010
Report 360-01

Michigan Constitutional Issues: General Revision of the Michigan Constitution

Proposal 2010-01 will ask Michigan voters whether a constitutional convention should be convened for the purpose of a general revision of the state Constitution. The 1963 Michigan Constitution provides in Article XII, Section 3, that in 1978 and every 16 years thereafter the question of a general revision of the constitution shall be submitted to the electors of the state.

Options for Michigan Voters

Proposal 2010-01 will ask Michigan electors to assess how well the fundamental law of the state serves as a framework for efficient, accountable government services that meets today’s economic and social needs. In November, voters will choose: to convene a constitutional convention to draft a revised constitution to deal in a holistic manner with issues perceived to be problematic; or to allow the 1963 Michigan Constitution to continue in its present form.

If Proposal 2010-01 is approved, Article XII, Section 3 of the Michigan Constitution requires a special primary and a special election to be held within six months to select convention delegates. Michigan’s election law provides for four elections in a calendar year, so the elections would occur in February and June of 2011. Article XII, Section 3 of the Constitution further provides that the electors of each representative district and the electors of each senatorial district shall elect one delegate to the convention.

The 1963 Constitution provides that the convention would convene in Lansing on October 4, 2011. The delegates are empowered to choose their own officers, determine the rules of proceedings and judge the qualifications, elections and returns of its members. The delegates will be compensated for their time and to incur additional cost through the appointment of such officers, employees, and assistants as it deems necessary; printing and distribution of documents, journals, and proceeds; and explanations and information dissemination about the proposed constitution. The Constitution does not dictate the length of time that a convention can use to draft a revised constitution.

If Proposal 2010-01 is rejected by the voters, the 1963 Constitution will remain in effect. The legislature and voters may continue to adapt the 1963 Constitution to future economic and social needs by offering amendments to reform specific sections viewed as problematic. If the question is rejected, it will automatically appear on the ballot again in the year 2026.

Michigan voters decided against similar ballot questions in 1978 (640,286 Yes to 2,112,549 No) and 1994 (777,779 Yes to 2,008,070 No). The 1963 Michigan Constitution has proven to be a living document, having been amended numerous times over the 45 years since its adoption.

Wholesale Revision

A state constitutional convention elected by the people is free to fashion any kind of document it pleases, subject only to restraints imposed by the United States Constitution as the supreme law of the land and subject, of course, to having its work ratified by the state’s electors. While Michigan‘s history with constitutional revision has tended to incrementally build on existing constitutions, nothing would bind a 2011 constitutional convention to such an approach.

Further, while a number of electors may agree upon issues in need of constitutional reform, there are no single, correct reforms to most of the large and important questions that would confront a convention. These are matters of opinion and judgment, and honest differences of view can readily be entertained.


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