Editor’s note: The Michigan Daily has also provided endorsements for other races on the Ann Arbor ballot this November. You can find them all here.

In addition to the candidates on the ballot, Michigan voters will decide the fate of two statewide proposals in this year’s election cycle. Proposal 1 would alter the way that the state of Michigan uses royalties and revenue from gas and oil extracted on public lands, directing revenues from this practice to conservation efforts and the state park systems. Proposal 2 is a proposed constitutional amendment, aimed at protecting Michiganders’ online data and communications from warrantless search and seizure. 

Voting ‘yes’ on Proposal 1 would earmark additional oil and gas revenue for the purpose of protecting and further developing Michigan’s parks. As it currently stands, when the State Parks Endowment Fund reaches its $800 million cap, any additional revenue generated from oil and gas extracted from public lands would be free for the legislature’s unrestricted use. Proposal 1 will eliminate the $500 million cap on the Natural Resources Trust Fund and require that all revenues from oil and gas be directed to the NRTF after the State Parks Endowment Fund reaches its $800 million ceiling. In addition, Proposal 1 will specify how the funds can be spent requiring that at least 20% of the Endowment Fund annual spending will go toward the improvement of state parks, at least 25% of the NRTF’s annual spending will go towards parks and public recreation areas and at least 25 percent of the NRTF’s annual spending will go towards the conservation of land. 

Proposal 1 is endorsed by a multitude of Michigan and national environmental organizations including the Michigan Audubon Society, the Michigan NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program and the National Wildlife Federation. The Sierra Club is notably the only environmental organization in opposition, saying that “requiring revenue from a non-renewable source to go to ongoing, increasing funding needs creates financial problems, it doesn’t solve them. If we are to mitigate climate change, we need to protect and preserve land, and we need to find new revenue sources for the MNRTF as we work to get ourselves off of fossil fuels.” 

The Michigan Daily Editorial Board wishes to stress that the state of Michigan must transition away from relying on gas and oil revenues to finance parks and should not have to tax oil and gas companies, those polluting “Pure Michigan,” to fund conservation efforts. Green energy must become a priority to protect the environment and create long-term sustainable jobs in the state of Michigan. However, due to the reality of park funding in this moment and due to the requirements Proposal 1 will place on the legislature’s delineation of revenues raised by the extraction of oil and gas on state lands to engage in conservation, The Daily Editorial Board endorses voting “yes” on Proposal 1.

Proposal 2 is a constitutional amendment that, according to the proposal’s language, would “require a search warrant in order to access a person’s electronic data or electronic communications.” As more of people’s identities and personal information is stored online, states across the nation are beginning to consider similar constitutional amendments or legislation. While the U.S. Constitution’s 4th Amendment is designed to prevent unreasonable or unwarranted searches and seizures, the 4th Amendment does not explicitly include electronic data or communication. Voting ‘yes’ on Proposal 2 would amend Michigan’s constitution to explicitly include electronic data and communications as requiring warrants for law enforcement to access.

Utah became the first state to explicitly ban warrantless searches and seizures of electronic data and communications in 2019. However, unlike Michigan’s Proposal 2, Utah’s ban on warrantless searches was simply a law, not a constitutional amendment. Currently, 11 states have constitutions with provisions relating to the “Right to Privacy.” However, none specifically outline the search and seizure of electronic data and communication. Florida’s constitution comes the closest to protecting electronic data, stating that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, and against the unreasonable interception of private communications by any means, shall not be violated.” In this regard, Michigan’s passing of Proposal 2 would pioneer the explicit constitutional protection of online data and communications, setting a precedent for other states to follow suit. 

Due to the importance of explicit online privacy protections, the need to keep our state constitution updated and functional and the desire to set a precedent for other states to follow suit in privacy protection, The Daily Editorial Board strongly urges a ‘yes’ vote on Proposal 2.

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