Michigan voters will take to the polls next month to decide a number of important issues. One of these issues is Proposal 3 – Moving certain voting rights beyond law and into the Michigan Constitution.
Proposal 3 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow a United States citizen who is qualified to vote in Michigan to:
* Become automatically registered to vote when applying for, updating or renewing a driver’s license or state-issued personal identification card, unless the person declines.
* Simultaneously register to vote with proof of residency and obtain a ballot during the 2-week period prior to an election, up to and including Election Day.
* Obtain an absent voter ballot without providing a reason.
* Cast a straight-ticket vote for all candidates of a particular political party when voting in a partisan general election.
The Citizens Research Council of Michigan is the state’s oldest public policy research organization. For 100 years this organization has been providing factual, unbiased independent information on major political concerns at the state and local levels. Their belief is that a better informed public promotes better policy making.
Here is their take on Proposal 3:
“Voting and access to the ballot are fundamental to a thriving, well-functioning democracy. While all citizens have a responsibility to vote on Election Day, it falls to the government to ensure that all aspects of the voting process, from voter registration to election certification, are efficient, secure, fair, and accurate.
“The Michigan Constitution entrusts the state legislature with the responsibility “to regulate the time, place and manner of all elections,” except for instances where the Constitution specifically addresses aspects of the voting franchise. The legislature has enacted the Michigan Election Law to carry out its constitutional responsibility. The legislature, through a majority vote and with the approval of the governor, can change different aspects of the voting franchise.
“If Proposal 2018-3 passes, a number of “voting rights” will be enshrined in the Michigan Constitution. Many of them are currently dealt with in state law. By including these rights in the state constitution, it will make it more difficult for the legislature to make changes to certain aspects of the voting franchise.
“If Proposal 2018-3 is rejected, many of these “voting rights” would be enforced in current state law. Lawmakers will continue to be responsible for safeguarding voting in Michigan through state law and would have the prerogative of implementing in provisions not currently available. For example, if they wanted to adopt the automatic voter registration policy included in the ballot proposal, they would have to amend the Michigan Election Law to do so.
“Major Issues to Consider: The key issue raised by the proposal deals less with the specific “voting rights” that would be included in the state constitution, than whether these policy preferences should be enshrined in the constitution. Most constitutional scholars believe that the state’s fundamental law should be reserved for establishing, defining, and limiting the basic powers of the government, stating general principles, and declaring the rights of citizens. Many of the policies contained in the proposal are ones that are essentially legislative matters that currently reside in the Michigan Election Law. Other states address these issues in statutory law as opposed to their state constitutions.
“Proposal 3 is a citizens initiative to put voting rights, many of them already part of state law, behind the protective armor of the state constitution. It also seeks to add a few that aren’t, including same-day registration and no-reason absentee voting.
“Voting and ballot access are fundamental to a thriving, well-functioning democracy. While all citizens have a responsibility to vote on Election Day, it falls to the government to ensure that all aspects of the voting process, from registration to election certification, are efficient, secure, fair and accurate.
“The Michigan Constitution entrusts the state legislature with the responsibility “to regulate the time, place and manner of all elections,” except for instances where the Constitution specifically addresses aspects of the voting franchise. Proposal 3 takes the job of oversight out of the hands of Michigan policy makers and puts it in the constitution, which it is far more difficult to change than state statute.
“Some of the voting rights covered by Proposal 3 have long been part of U.S., and Michigan’s, civic life – particularly the secret ballot and the right of Americans serving in the military or living abroad to receive ballots in enough time to have their votes counted. Others that have been more controversial are included as well – same-day registration, no-reason absentee voting and the often disputed straight-ticket option.
“Straight-ticket, or straight-party voting, in which voters may choose an entire slate of candidates by checking one box, was eliminated as an option by the state legislature in 2015, leading to protracted legal action and a split along party lines.
“This proposal continues a trend of bypassing initiated statutes and proposing statutory material for inclusion in the state constitution,” said Eric Lupher, President of the Citizens Research Council. “Further, it might create fear that a no vote would threaten long-established voting rights, such as the secret ballot or sufficient time for absentee voting.”
“The Citizens Research Council of Michigan does not take positions on ballot issues. In analyzing these ballot issues, the Citizens Research Council hopes to provide more information so that voters can make better informed decisions in formulating their votes.”