Ballot proposals can lead to big change and Michigan residents have seen firsthand the difference they can make — both positive and negative. This year’s proposals aren’t quite as divisive as hot-button issues like same-sex marriage, affirmative action and medical marijuana, but they could still have a noticeable effect on the state’s government. This election cycle, the there are two ballot proposals being considered statewide. Proposal 1 asks voters if Michigan should hold a constitutional convention. Proposal 2 would create a constitutional amendment forbidding people convicted of a violation of public trust from holding public office. Students should head to the polls to cast their vote on Michigan’s ballot initiatives.
Ballot initiatives are an inherently flawed phenomenon. Inevitably, they lead to poorly-worded and inadequately thought-out legislation. Case in point: the ballot proposal that in 2008 legalized medical marijuana in the state. Though medical marijuana is a valuable treatment for many, the ballot proposal led to a law that’s unclear, in some ways contradictory and overall ineffective. And other ballot initiatives simply reflect people’s reactionary bias that damages important civil liberties. For example, Michigan’s 2004 ban on same-sex marriage. Ballot proposals more often reflect partisanship and a mob mentality than thoughtful discussion. It’s the purpose of the legislature to create useful, clear legislation that reflects the desires of legislators’ constituencies.
But, despite their inherent flaws, ballot proposals exist and voters must make a decision.
Proposal 1 offers voters the option to hold a constitutional convention. According to the current constitution, this proposal must be presented to voters every 16 years. A constitutional convention would call for delegates to revise the state constitution, which will then be approved or rejected by voters. Michigan’s last constitutional convention took place from 1961 to 1962, and we are long overdue for a revision. Voters should vote yes for Proposal 1 in November to modify the Michigan Constitution.
It’s been a long time since Michigan took a comprehensive look at its constitution. This isn’t the same state it was 50 years ago — the economy and the fall of the automotive industry is proof of that. A new constitution could reflect the needs of today’s economy and help define the state’s future.
One of the concerns about holding a constitutional convention is the expenses involved. That’s a valid worry considering Michigan’s already-strained budget. But the convention could also raise money for the state if it revamps the tax system. Michigan’s current flat income tax is disturbingly behind the times. A new, graduated income tax could be included in the revisions and would help increase state revenue.
And the convention could clear the constitution of amendments that limit the civil liberties of Michigan’s citizens — specifically, the ban on same-sex marriage. A constitutional convention could reverse this policy completely and finally allow members of the LGBT community the equality they deserve.
But it’s crucial that the constitution isn’t modified in any way that threatens the autonomy of the University or its state funding. The freedom that the University enjoys has led — and will lead — to valuable research that will bring jobs to the state and revitalize the economy. And keeping this research and education accessible requires adequate state support. If there is a constitutional convention, delegates must respect the University’s value to the state.
Though these concerns are important to keep in mind, the constitutional convention would ultimately benefit our state. To give Michigan’s constitution the update it needs, vote YES on Proposal 1.
The other ballot initiative, Proposal 2, is worrisome. The initiative would amend the state constitution so that any person convicted of a felony involving betrayal of public trust would be ineligible for election to public office for 20 years.
The proposal attempts to curb corruption, following several instances of deception and fraud in Detroit, including the scandal around former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and city council member Monica Conyers. But this very visceral reaction to Detroit’s corruption doesn’t give voters the credit they deserve and discriminates against people who have already paid for their crimes.
The proposal’s aim is a little too Orwellian. Michigan voters should have the freedom to vote for whomever they like, regardless of the candidate’s past. The proposal seems to assume that voters aren’t capable of deciding for themselves which candidates are acceptable. It’s a bit insulting to the public’s intelligence. But voters can — and should be able to — decide which candidates they can trust and which are most appropriate for a position.
In addition to limiting voter freedom, the proposal also seems to ignore one of the central philosophies of the judicial system. The idea of the judicial system should be to help reform and reintegrate back into society those who have broken the law. The stipulation that a felon should be ineligible for public office up to 20 years after their conviction throws the concept of moral reformation out the window. In our society, those who have paid their debt to society following a conviction deserve the benefit of the doubt.
Ultimately, the citizens of the state of Michigan shouldn’t need a law to tell them which candidates they can vote for. Proposal 2, though it aims to solve corruption, is misguided. Vote NO on Proposal 2.