Thursday, February 27, 2020

Voters' guide to Michigan's 3 ballot proposals

November 1, 2018
Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger poses with a model of what is considered the first gerrymandered district in the United States on Oct. 20.
Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger poses with a model of what is considered the first gerrymandered district in the United States on Oct. 20. —
Photo by Andrew Roth | The State News

Five ballot proposals qualified to be on the ballot this year. After the Legislature preemptively approved two of them — one to raise the minimum wage and one to mandate paid sick time — voters will decide the fate of the remaining three.

Proposal 1: Recreational marijuana

Under this proposal, recreational marijuana would be regulated similarly to alcohol. Citizens older than 21 years would be allowed to purchase and use it legally, so long as they do not endanger others by driving or operating heavy machinery.

The state government would apply a 10 percent excise tax on marijuana sales on top of the regular 6 percent sales tax. 

Critics argue 10 percent is not hefty enough to make a noticeable difference in the state’s budget, but the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol — the group behind the initiative — said it wanted to set the tax low enough so users would not be disincentivized from purchasing legal marijuana, thus eliminating or greatly reducing the black market.

According to the group, Michigan would raise approximately $130 million a year from marijuana sales. 

Marijuana would continue to be classified as an illegal, Schedule I drug by the federal government.

Proposal 2: Independent redistricting committee

The 1963 Michigan Constitution called for the creation of an independent redistricting commission to draw legislative district lines, taking power away from State Legislature. After several votes ended up in deadlock, however, the state Supreme Court handed the power to draw district lines back to the Legislature.

Now, activist group Voters Not Politicians hopes to create an amended redistricting commission in what is often considered one of the most gerrymandered states in the country. 

The commission would consist of 13 registered voters: Four each from the Republican and Democratic parties, and five independents. 

Commissioners would be required to host a number of town halls across the state and make the processes they used to create district lines publicly available. 

Before a map could be approved, it would have to get a vote of approval from at least two of four commissioners from each major party and two of five independent commissioners. 

Emails released this month show Republicans consulted with donors when drawing district lines and drew the district lines to protect incumbents, packing the “Dem garbage in Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland and Macomb counties into only four districts.”

Proposal 3: Shore up voters’ rights

This proposal would enshrine a number of voting-related rights in the Michigan Constitution, including: straight-ticket voting; the right to a secret ballot; automatic voter registration when citizens visit the Secretary of State; same-day voter registration; no-reason absentee voting; post-election audits; and ensuring military members and other oversea voters get their ballots with enough time for them to be counted.

Critics of the bill say same-day voter registration would not allow the Secretary of State enough time to verify the legitimacy of that voter. Currently, the department does things like send a letter to the address the voter applicant lists, to verify whether it bounces back or not.

Currently, 15 states and the District of Columbia allow citizens to register to vote on Election Day.

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