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Landlords now required to provide voter registration info

February 6, 2013

Students are embracing a new ordinance requiring landlords to provide new tenants with voter registration information passed at Tuesday’s regular city council meeting, a move questioned by some landlords.

The ordinance is aimed at helping students — who might be moving from on campus to off campus, or from house to house — register to vote, or how to re-register with the change of address. Councilmember Vic Loomis was the only member to vote against the policy.

Zoology senior Lia Olowniuk said the new ordinance might be especially helpful for international students who are new to the area.

“I think it’s good for people to be informed of this who aren’t from here, especially if they are to become a U.S. citizen,” she said.

Emilie Wohlscheid, area director with DTN Management Co., 2502 Lake Lansing Road, said they would be more than happy giving out voter registration information, but thought it was unnecessary to mandate it.

“We’re just disappointed the city didn’t come to us first to ask for help spreading the word instead of passing an ordinance,” she said.

Violating the ordinance was a misdemeanor offense in the original proposal, but Mayor Pro Tem Nathan Triplett made a motion during Tuesday’s meeting to amend the policy to make it a civil infraction, which passed unanimously.

Under the misdemeanor offense, landlords not in compliance with the ordinance would have been subjected to a minimum fine of $100 and a maximum of $500, plus the possibility of spending up to 90 days in jail.

With the change to a civil infraction, there is no possibility of jail time for noncompliance, and the fine was changed to a max of $1,000.

Ordinances typically take effect immediately, but this policy will be implemented when the City Clerk’s office has prepared the proper documents. There is no timetable for when the documents will be ready.

The city will print and give landlords a two-page document to inform tenants what is required to vote, where they can go to register and how they can fill out absentee ballots.

Matt Hagan, an agent with Hagan Realty, Inc., 927 E. Grand River Ave., said handing out two sheets of paper might not be the most environmentally friendly way of going about the new ordinance. During previous council meetings, Hagan criticized the proposal because of the potential fines.

“I don’t think handing out two more pieces of paper out to roughly 17,000 people is the best use of resources,” he said.

Economics junior Andy Krause said landlords shouldn’t have to pay a penalty for noncompliance.
“People don’t need to be forced to give out information, nor to vote,” Krause said.

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