Political Roundup: A complex November ballot

Jul 12, 2012

Every Thursday, we look at Michigan politics on Michigan Radio's Political Roundup.

This week, Michigan Radio's Jennifer White was joined by Ken Sikkema, former Senate majority leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants and Debbie Dingell, political analyst and member of the Democratic National Committee to discuss the questions that may appear on this November's ballot.

This week, the Michigan Supreme Court agreed to take up the question of whether a referendum on Public Act 4, the emergency manager law, should appear on the November ballot.

With as many as seven possible questions appearing on the ballot, Michigan voters could be spending a little more time than usual in the voting booth. The initiatives range from protecting union bargaining rights in the state constitution to requiring super-majorities in order for the legislature to raise taxes.

Sikkema says he finds the initiative to keep the Emergency Manager Law off the ballot strange.

"I think the really odd feature of all of this is the issue before the court is the size of the print rather than the content of the proposal," he said.

Dingell says because of this focus on the font size, if the court rules to keep the question off the ballot, she anticipates people interpreting a ruling as a political maneuver, regardless of its legality.

"It's going to be a very political time on the ballot proposals this year in Michigan," she said.

White mentioned that a coalition of business groups is urging voters to vote 'no' on every question across the board, and that they think these questions should be dealt with by the legislature.

Sikkema says this high number of ballot questions might be somewhat confusing for some voters, and the "vote no" campaign could prove complex as well.

"There's a downside in this business coalition voting for everyone to vote 'no,' because, if the emergency manager proposal gets to the ballot, it's a situation where a 'no' vote really means 'yes,' the law is repealed, which is not what the business organizations want," he said.

Dingell expressed concern over the ballot questions' effect on the state and municipalities, and what she calls the "California phenomenon," in which people vote "no" on everything when faced with an overwhelming number of ballot proposals.

"I am very worried about what is going to happen this year on the ballot. I think it has the potential to tear the state apart," she said. "I think this is a very confusing ballot agenda."

Sikkema also brought up the possible conflicting results of a confluence of new proposals.

"For example, the collective bargaining issue, if that passes at the same time the requirement that you need a three-fourths vote to raise taxes passes, you could see, potentially a conflict there down the road," he said.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom