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Election forum informs students about ballot proposals in Michigan

By Katie Burke, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 1, 2012

Though the state’s six ballot proposals are listed at the bottom of the ballot, issues concerning the proposals took center stage at the 2012 Election Forum on Thursday night.

About 90 students attended the event, which was hosted by the Rackham Student Government, Students of Color of Rackham, Center for Local, State and Urban Policy, and The Michigan Daily. Opponents and proponents of each proposal spoke and answered questions submitted by Rackham students.

Bridget Mary McCormack, the dean of clinical affairs at the University’s Law School and Michigan Supreme Court candidate, opened the event by encouraging students to fully participate in voting by filling out the entire ballot.

McCormack said a large number of voters do not complete the non-partisan section of the ballot, which is a major issue for state government and court elections.

“The non-partisan section of the ballot has a big drop-off rate from the top of the ticket to the bottom of the ticket,” McCormack said. “That is too bad.”

Speakers who followed included a state legislator, private consultants and members of state coalitions.

State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor) spoke against Proposal 1 and in favor of Proposal 2, emphasizing the difference between Proposal 1, which is a referendum, and the other proposals, which are constitutional amendments.

Irwin said Proposal 1 is a move to affirm Public Act 4, passed in 2011, which allows the state government to appoint emergency managers to lead economically distressed districts.

“Really what we’re deciding with Proposal 1 is whether or not we want to validate the changes made in 2011,” Irwin said. “If the public were to vote no on Proposal 1 … we would go back to the old emergency manager law.”

Irwin added that there are better alternatives for the emergency financial manager law than the 2011 alterations, and stopping the proposal would force legislators to reassess the law and investigate other solutions for aiding financially unstable cities.

Lewis Butler, economic outreach consultant at Americans for Prosperity, an organization devoted to strengthening the state government, argued in favor of Proposals 1 and 6 and against Proposals 2 and 4.

Butler said the recent measures enacted by Public Act 4 are necessary to carry out the reforms that will rebuild economically failing communities.

Butler said Proposal 4, which would provide in-home health care workers with collective bargaining rights, is counterproductive because high union dues would prevent many workers from receiving any profit as a result of unionizing.

“A lot of people get zero benefit from the union dues that they are paying, and there is no benefit whatsoever to the people they are taking care of,” Butler said.

Scott Heinzman — a Michigan representative for American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today, an organization for disabled citizens — and a beneficiary of in-home health care, said Proposal 4 puts the control of in-home health care in the hands of patients.

“We are directing the state to move away from the old, institutional approach to long term care, and we’re moving into the modern version of we direct our own care,” Heinzman said.

To conclude the forum, Brad Williams, the vice president of government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber, argued against Proposal 6, which would require voter approval for the construction of any international border crossing if approved. Butler, whose organization supports Proposal 6’s sponsor, billionaire Matty Moroun, advocated for the passage of the measure.

Williams said if the bridge could be built expediently, it would be a boon to the state’s economy.

“(Building the bridge) is about jobs and building a healthier economy for Michiganders,” Williams said.

He added that allowing residents to vote on every international crossing is not an organized way to conduct legislation and would result in inefficient government.

Butler countered, saying Michigan citizens should have the ability to weigh in on such an influential decision, as the public would be most affected by the construction of the bridge.

“Proposal 6 isn’t a decision of yes or no on the bridge, it’s a decision to take it to the people so they can have a say in the process,” Butler said.

Public Health student Olivia Alford said Election Day will be her first time voting, and she found the forum informative.

“Some of these issues seem very sensitive to the political climate, so I wanted to learn more about them,” Alford said. “(The forum) made some issues less black and white.”

Rackham student Amber Williams said she attended the event to learn about the proposals beyond their advertisements.

“There are so many ballots, and it’s really hard to get through the partisan information,” Williams said. “(The speakers) made up my mind on some proposals.”