In a nutshell:

  • This is a big, consequential election
  • The Research Council has spent weeks analyzing the 2018 ballot issues, and publishing our results, in a variety of sizes and formats
  • Voters can go to the polls as well-informed as they want to be

Michigan expects a lot of its voters, asking us to elect not only governors, their lieutenants, attorneys general and secretaries of state, but also positions even well-informed voters might have to do research on – board members of three state universities, most notably, but also the state board of education, judges and local government officials, among many, many others. How are you, I, or any other voter supposed to know who’s the best choice to guide Michigan State University through the next eight years?

Yes, yes, with research, but my life has approximately one million things that rank higher on the to-do list than boning up on the platforms of would-be Michigan State governing board members. So you can hardly blame a voter for either quietly ignoring down-ballot races, or (in the past, anyway) choosing a straight-ticket option and hoping for the best.

This year is a statewide election year, and a big one. Term limits are brooming out all elected executive branch officials and most of the state legislature. We’re also electing a U.S. Senator and all of our congressional representatives. And if that weren’t enough, we also have three consequential ballot initiatives – whether to legalize marijuana, take redistricting out of the legislature’s hands and to put certain voting rights in the state constitution (including the straight-ticket option).

These three issues adapt well to 30-second ads and bumper-sticker debate, not formats where nuance is valued or even mentioned. Legalize and tax pot? That’s easy for many voters to understand, but the nuts and bolts of the question – how much money might be raised and where it will go, the potential consequences of such an action (or inaction) – not so much.

The redistricting proposal, too, easily boils down to the three-word name of the group that proposed it – Voters Not Politicians. But how, exactly, these voters would be selected, what would guide their work, how such a commission would run, are details that voters should investigate to cast an informed vote on the issue.

Fortunately, the Citizens Research Council has your back.

With the publication last week of our final ballot analysis, on Proposal 1, our researchers wrapped our biennial public-service duty that is among the most popular work we do. In 2012, when voters faced six such questions, the weekend before Election Day saw the heaviest traffic our website has yet handled, with more than 136,000 downloads of just one of the analyses prepared by the Research Council.

That’s a number to warm the hearts of the people who work hard to get to the bottom of these issues, many of which are made irrelevant by defeat by voters. It’s not exactly Sisyphus’ rock rolling back down the hill, but Research Council staffers must be among the best-informed people in the state on legislation and constitutional amendments that never came to pass.

But a big part of the Council’s mission is to inform the public – policy makers and voters, especially – on what the government is up to, has been up to, might be up to.

All of this throat-clearing is to take this opportunity, in the final days of the 2018 campaign, to point any undecided voters, or those who would like to know just a bit more about what they’re voting on, to the Council’s 2018 ballot-issues page. There, you’ll find links to all our analyses of Proposals 1, 2 and 3, in a variety of formats. If you have an unquenchable thirst to review our breakdown of the issues embedded within each proposal, you can read the exhaustive, longform analyses. If all you have time for is a gloss, there’s a summary. Visual learners might appreciate the webinars we held on each question, which can be viewed in their original form, as a video, or slides-only.

There’s also one additional piece on each question, diving into a particular detail. Marijuana legalization comes with public-health spending issues. Redistricting reform is not confined to Michigan, and we have an explanation of how other states are doing it. And as Proposal 3, the voting-rights question, includes straight-ticket voting as a potential constitutional right, we looked at the history of this option, and why the major parties may be fighting over it.

But as they say on the late-night commercials, that’s not all. We’ve also launched a podcast this year, and have done episodes on each of these questions. Our discussions of Proposal 1, Proposal 2 and Proposal 3 are as close as your computer or mobile device. (And you are hereby urged to subscribe to #FactsMatter wherever you get your podcasts.)

It all adds up to lots of choices about lots of choices, but government of, by and for the people is serious business, this year and every year. Informed voters are better than the low-information kind, and we want everyone to be well, or better, informed.

With Election Day 2018 near at hand, and many of us longing to see it in the rear-view mirror, we remind you that your civic duty has never been so important. Please do yours, and let us help you arrive in the booth as prepared as you can be.

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