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.
THE THREE THAT SURVIVED
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.
Related marijuana ballot issue coverage:
- Message from marijuana country: We love legal pot. Will Michigan?
- What’s legal, and what isn’t, under Michigan recreational marijuana plan
- More pot and lower taxes if Michigan marijuana vote passes this fall
- Support legal pot in Michigan? Know the latest health risks (and benefits)
- Michigan Republicans won’t pass marijuana bill. Voters to decide in November.
- Legal marijuana headed to Michigan ballot, prevailing wage repeal to court
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.
Related redistricting ballot issue coverage:
- Truth Squad | A video attacks Michigan redistricting proposal
- California’s redistricting commission has some free advice for Michigan
- Michigan Supreme Court votes 4-3 to keep redistricting proposal on ballot
- Four takeaways from Michigan Supreme Court upholding redistricting ballot proposal
- Here’s how Michigan’s redistricting commission would work
- Michigan redistricting ballot language rejects partisan phrasings
- An uphill fight to take redistricting out of politicians’ hands
- Gerrymandering in Michigan is among the nation’s worst, new test claims
- Emails suggest Republicans gerrymandered Michigan to weaken ‘Dem garbage’
- Democrats blast Michigan Chamber over gerrymandering emails
- Driveway by driveway, these volunteers aim to end gerrymandering in Michigan
- Voting results deliver on Michigan Chamber VP’s gerrymandering promise
- Amid jeers, Michigan Republicans select a supreme court justice who strayed
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.
THREE REMOVED FROM BALLOT
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.