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Issues & Ale explores why the public's level of trust in state government is low

Jun 29, 2016

One Well Brewing in Kalamazoo opened its doors Tuesday night for Michigan Radio’s latest rendition of Issues & Ale, our community conversation event series.

This Issues & Ale conversation was held at One Well Brewing in Kalamazoo.
Credit Lindsey Scullen/Michigan Radio

For the second time this summer, Michigan Radio and the Center for Michigan met up with listeners to discuss why trust in government is eroding in our state – and how that trust might be restored.

With cider in hand (which was, indeed, on tap Tuesday night), Michigan Radio’s Zoe Clark led a discussion between the following panelists:

At the end of the event, Amber DeLind of the Center for Michigan polled audience members to gauge opinions related to the panel’s various topics of conversation.

How do you rate your level of trust in state government?

Topics of conversation ranged from term limits and campaign money to voter access and redistricting.

One highlight of the conversation was the comments panelists made about Michigan’s voting districts.

“We have so many districts decided,” panelist Craig Mauger said.

He explained that of the 110 State House races this year, only around 12 will be competitive. He said that’s because “the districts are drawn in a partisan fashion.”

What would best improve fair representation of the public in the state legislature? 81% of audience members said reforming how legislative districts are drawn and 14% said creating top-two primaries.
Credit Lindsey Scullen/Michigan Radio

Panelist Ron French said this system leads to unfair outcomes.

“As long as you have so many districts that are so polarized, things aren’t going to change,” he said. “Unless you go to a Top Two primary.”

A Top-Two primary would entail putting all voters – both Republicans and Democrats – into one primary election. The top two vote-getters would then run against each other in the general election.

When asked what would best improve fair representation of the Michigan public in the state legislature, 81% of the audience said to reform how legislative districts are drawn, 15% said to create Top-Two primaries and 4% said “none of these.”

Panelists and audience members also discussed term limits Tuesday night.

Host Zoe Clark asked the following question of the audience:

“How many people here think term limits are a good idea?”

Here’s how audience members responded:

Few audience members raised their hands indicating most think term limits are a bad idea.
Credit Lindsey Scullen/Michigan Radio

Panelist Joe Schwarz agreed.

“Term limits should be abolished,” he said. “They are unconstitutional.”

To hear more conversation about restoring trust in government, as this is only a sampling, you can watch a recording of our previous Issues & Ale event (on the same topic) here.