Bridge Magazine guide to the 2018 Michigan ballot proposals


Update: Snyder signs bills that weaken Michigan minimum wage, sick leave laws
Nov. 6: Michigan approves recreational marijuana. What you need to know.

The race to the ballot in Michigan has had the intrigue of a political thriller.

Months of legal battles over ballot petitions. A dramatic, late-night ruling from the Michigan Supreme Court that threatened the political future of one justice. Charges that out-of-state groups were trying to buy popular support, or that the Legislature was circumventing democracy by passing bills to keep some proposals off the ballot.

After all that — and with just eight weeks to go until Election Day — here are the details of the three statewide proposals that voters will decide in November, and three issues that lawmakers succeeded in scrubbing from the ballot.


Proposal 1: Legalize recreational marijuana

What it is: A proposed legislative change that would allow Michigan residents 21 and older to legally possess, use, grow and sell marijuana for recreational uses. Currently, Michigan law only allows marijuana for medicinal purposes. The group’s proposal, backed by a committee called the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, aims to reduce arrests for marijuana possession among adults and create a legal structure that taxes revenue from marijuana operations and deters black market activity. The proposal would create a 10 percent state excise tax on marijuana sold by retailers, with revenue dedicated for municipalities, counties, public schools and roads.

Who’s behind it? The effort is led by the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group aiming to decriminalize marijuana across the country. A committee known as MI Legalize, which ran the effort in 2016, also has been involved with coordinating volunteers.

How much money has it raised? The committee took in $113,789 in the most recent filing period from April 21 through July 20, according to state campaign finance records. It has raised more than $1 million to date this election cycle.

What opponents say? Opposition is mainly from a group called Healthy and Productive Michigan. The group called marijuana a gateway to harder drug use at a March Solutions Summit hosted by Bridge and The Center for Michigan. The committee took in $1,625 in the most recent filing period from April 21 through July 20, according to state campaign finance records. It has raised more than $277,000 to date this election cycle, most of it from SAM Action, an Alexandria, Va.-based 501(c)4 organization affiliated with a nonprofit organization called Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

How can I learn more? Read the full ballot proposal here or visit the committee’s website.


Proposal 2: Create a redistricting commission

What it is: An effort to change how state and federal legislative boundaries are drawn in Michigan, a process known as redistricting. Currently, whichever political party controls the state Legislature decides the boundaries of state and congressional districts every 10 years based on U.S. Census data, which critics say leads to boundaries that give unfair advantage to the party in power. Michigan is considered one of the most gerrymandered, or unfairly drawn, states in the nation. Republicans have controlled these decisions in Michigan since 2011. The effort brought by ballot committee Voters Not Politicians would amend the Michigan constitution to take away redistricting power from lawmakers and give it to an independent citizens commission made up of 13 registered voters in the state. Each major party would have four members and the remaining five members would be independent voters.

Who’s behind it? Voters Not Politicians relied on volunteers, rather than paid circulators, to collect signatures. Katie Fahey, the group’s president and treasurer, wrote a Facebook post shortly after the 2016 election saying she wanted to tackle gerrymandering in Michigan. Fahey has said the coalition has had more than 10,000 people sign up to volunteer, with nearly 4,000 working directly as petition circulators.

How much money has it raised? The committee took in $701,018 in the most recent filing period from April 21 through July 20, according to state records. It has publicly reported nearly $1.5 million this election cycle.

What opponents say? An opposition group, Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution, fought the effort up to the Michigan Supreme Court, which ultimately allowed the measure to appear on the November ballot. The group, which counts the Michigan Chamber of Commerce among its primary contributors, has raised $305,000 to date this election cycle. Critics say the citizens commission would be made up of people with little knowledge of drawing district lines and place most of the power in whomever is elected Secretary of State, a partisan elected office. Opponents have noted that some leaders of the Voters Not Politicians committee — including Fahey — have supported Democratic candidates in past elections and raise concerns about a provision that would allow commissioners to self-report their partisan leanings.

How can I learn more? Read the full ballot proposal here or visit the committee’s website.


Proposal 3: Make it easier to vote in Michigan

What it is: A proposal to enshrine straight-ticket voting and post-election audits in the state constitution; automatically register Michiganders to vote when they visit a Secretary of State office, unless they opt out; allow more time for residents to register to vote before an election, including on Election Day; and allow a state resident to vote by absentee ballot without needing to first declare a reason.

Who’s behind it? The ballot initiative is backed by a ballot committee called Promote the Vote. Supporters include the ACLU of Michigan, the League of Women Voters, the Michigan League for Public Policy and the NAACP Michigan State Conference. It also has support from Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss and the Detroit Regional Chamber.

How much money has it raised? The committee took in more than $1.5 million in the most recent filing period from April 21 through July 20, according to state records. It has publicly reported more than $2.7 million this election cycle.

What opponents say? An opposition group, Protect My Vote, was created Aug. 23. It lists as treasurer Mary Doster, the wife of Okemos election law attorney Eric Doster and also campaign treasurer for Republican-backed Supreme Court justices. The group has not yet had to file campaign finance reports with the state; its first reporting deadline before the Nov. 6 election is Oct. 26. It’s funding is not yet clear.

How can I learn more? Read the full ballot proposal here or visit the committee’s website.


Michigan’s Republican-dominated Legislature, for strategic reasons, preemptively adopted three citizen proposals this year that would otherwise have gone on the November ballot. Lawmakers did so on two proposals ‒ raising the state’s minimum wage and guaranteeing paid sick leave  ‒ to remove issues likely to draw progressive voters to the polls and to make it easier for lawmakers to soften or kill the laws after the elections.

Off ballot #1: Repeal prevailing wage law

In June, legislators adopted a proposal to repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law, which generally required union-scale wages and benefits be paid on public building projects. The proposal was backed by a ballot committee called Protecting Michigan Taxpayers. Proponents of repeal, including non-union contractors, said the law artificially inflated project costs, while opponents, mostly labor unions, said they feared repeal would lower wages and hurt efforts to recruit more people into skilled trades fields.

Off ballot #2: Raising state minimum wage  

On Sept. 5, the Legislature adopted a ballot proposal to gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2022, including for tipped workers, such as those in restaurants. The minimum wage proposal was led by a ballot committee called Michigan One Fair Wage. It was opposed by business groups, including the restaurant industry.

Off ballot #3: Paid sick leave  

That same day, lawmakers also adopted a ballot proposal that would require employers to offer their workers paid sick leave. The sick leave initiative was pushed by a ballot committee called MI Time to Care.

Supporters of the work-related proposals, including leading Democrats, say they believe the Republican majority in the state House and Senate passed them so that they could more easily sabotage them in lame-duck session after the November election. GOP legislative leaders don’t deny that possibility, saying after last week’s votes they wanted to preserve the ability to change legislation by simple majority, instead of a three-fourths supermajority that would have been required had the measures been approved by voters in November.

Still other proposals, including efforts to shut down the Line 5 pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac and move to a part-time Legislature, failed to qualify for the ballot due to lack of valid signatures from Michigan voters.

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Wed, 09/12/2018 - 9:38am

It there's one thing you can trust, it's that the GOP statehouse will abuse the state constitution to undermining the will of the people to the detriment of working class people. Shameless. Vote the bums out

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 9:23pm

So disappointing and political to see the legislature do this. It's so obviously intended to take the issues out of the hands of Michigan voters.

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 11:58pm

Please clarify "A proposal to enshrine straight-ticket voting "
Does the above wording not allow choosing people from each party on different positions?
As I think many voters do, I choose people based on what their qualifications for the positions are and not by party. As such I try to be an informed voter.

Marcia Ruff
Mon, 09/17/2018 - 10:42pm

It only means that straight-ticket will always be permitted. After all, in this election cycle, the legislature first banned it, then one court ruled it permissible, but then another court overruled it. Consequently, straight-ticket voting will not be allowed this November. This ballot measure would "enshrine" it in the sense that the legislature couldn't ban it again. However, in any election every voter would still have the ability to vote for individual candidates or choose a straight ticket.

Sun, 09/16/2018 - 10:20am

Yes to legalizing cannabis. The other two proposals are nothing but same old politics. They started with good intentions but have been sent off the tracks to please those that are funding them.

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 2:43pm

Please read, in entirety, the laws written in with the cannabis bill. These are not written to ultimately benefit anyone except the state. Please also sign up for updates from the board and pay attention to their meeting minutes. They need to rewrite the proposed law to make cannabis a truly recreational intoxicant. For example: If I go to the UP for a long camping vacation and bring 6 cases of beer plus a bottle or two of whiskey, that is completely fine....if I want to bring just enough cannabis to last me that length of time (possibly 4 or 5 ounces), I would be in violation of the new law because that is somehow too much recreation.....explain that logic without accusation or judgement in reference to how I spend my recreational time away from work.

I can guarantee that with the wool pulled tight, passing the state's idea of recreational weed is nothing but good, maaaaaaaaannnn.

Brisco Mange
Sun, 10/28/2018 - 12:29pm

Wow, 5 oz for a "camping trip". Do you sleep on a mattress or a cloud? 150-250 joints? Figuring the lower end, 30 joints per ounce, which means they're bigger joints, that's 9 per day. Exactly how much hiking, canoeing, fishing, biking, bird watching are you doing on this camping trip? That's why people should vote it down. Pro cannabis people have no boundaries.

Briscoe Mange
Sun, 10/28/2018 - 12:15pm

No to cannabis. We can't afford more homeless problems as Colorado now has. We can't afford a $100,000,000 San Fran Budget to clean feces off the streets. The more drugs we take, the "richer" the state gets. That's not even true, but what message do we send? Ask Colorado where the economic windfall is. If this passes Michigan will be number 1 in the country for allowable amounts of marijuana, and it's not even enforceable. 10 oz at home, 2.5oz possession, and 12 plants. Who is to say where and how much your 12 plants grow? With marijuana being 10 times the strength of marijuana during the days of Woodstock, there are serious health concerns, overdoses, and ER visits. 52% of Michigan's 470 fatal crashes involved drugs, with THC (Marijuana), being the number 1 drug of choice. Coincidence? Don't let the drug industry educate you. Educate yourself. Colorado leads in every category including youngest average age of exposure to marijuana. When Michigan joined the medical marijuana ranks, the youngest "patient" was 5 (five), years old. They have no line in the sand to draw for themselves. Cannabis for all. They can't even find commercial truck drivers to drive Colorado vegetables to the markets. No one can pass a drug test. Watch for them to eliminate cannabis from the testing criteria. if you want to use marijuana, use it at your own risk, but don't tell kids and others that's this stuff is fine.