Election 2012

Matthileo / Flickr

We are now a little more than 925 hours from when the polls open in Michigan on Election Day. But, for some voting has already started. Absentee ballots have been available for a week now. Soon, they’ll go in the mail to households that have requested them and people will begin mailing them back and dropping them off. Which means, it’s getting close to the end game: people are making their final decisions before November 6th. But, we’re not just talking about voters here, lobbyists and interest groups are making decisions about candidates, as well.

These are the interest groups that swirl around elections – we’ve seen a lot of attention paid to 527 groups and so-called educational committees that are not actually part of a campaign – but still put out ads and mailers in support of a particular candidate. And, here in Michigan, these interests are keeping a close eye on the state House - where all 110 seats are up for re-election.

Recently, there have been some polls that should give a modicum of hope to Democrats. They’re in the minority in Lansing, and they need to turn 10 seats to take control of the state House. The Detroit News published a poll last week that suggests Democrats have the advantage in a generic matchup against  Republicans; meaning these people who were polled expressed a preference for a no-name Democrat in a match-up with a no-name Republican in legislative races.

A lawsuit claims no state-appointed managers should be running Michigan cities or school districts until after voters determine the fate of the emergency manager law in November.

The action was filed today in Lansing by lawyers opposed to emergency managers.

The lawsuit says Governor Rick Snyder lost the authority to name managers to run struggling cities or school districts once the referendum on Public Act Four was put on the November ballot.

That suspended the law enacted last year, but the governor claims authority to name emergency financial managers – with less-sweeping powers – under the law that preceded it.

That makes no sense, said attorney John Philo.

“Something strikes me as very wrong about that. The presumption should be that until the people decide, we go back to our standard form of government, which is elected officials.”

Philo said there’s nothing in law that says we then revive old law to fill the gap.

“We don’t. We go back to our standard form of government, which is elected officials,” said Philo. “We’re almost treating elected officials as an aberrant form of government when we do this. That’s our standard – it’s elected officials. We go back to that until voters have their say in November.”

There are seven Michigan cities and school districts being run by state-appointed financial managers.

The lawsuit says those managers should be ordered to step down and turn their operations over to mayors, city councils, and school boards.

*This post was updated from an earlier version

A hearing on the ACLU's lawsuit over Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson's requirement to have a citizenship checkbox on all ballots is expected within the next week. Several county clerks around the state are refusing to follow through with the requirement. Detroit election workers were instructed to black out the box.

flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan voters will see six proposals on their ballots.

There is one referendum on a current law, and five proposed amendments to the Michigan State Constitution. 

See the links below for the proposals as they will appear on your ballot.

Be sure to check back in the coming weeks as Michigan Radio will be providing detailed analysis of each proposal.


Proposal 1: The emergency manager law

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson recently broke down how she came up with her numbers of illegal non-citizen voters on our show "Stateside with Cynthia Canty." She estimated that as many as 4,000 non-citizens are on state voter rolls. The AP reports that Johnson's figures have not been verified.

Republican state Representative Bob Genetski
Photo courtesy of Rep. Genetski's office

A jury has found Rep. Bob Genetski (R-Saugatuck) guilty for driving drunk earlier this year in East Lansing.

Genetski's defense was that blood alcohol tests were conducted improperly. The jury sided with the prosecution.

More on today's verdict from the Holland Sentinel:

Rep. Bob Genetski's face betrayed no emotion as the jury foreman said "guilty," the one-word verdict in his drunken driving trial.

Genetski was whisked away immediately to fulfill requirements of probation until his sentence is handed down by East Lansing District Judge David Jordon. The judge ordered Genetski to set up a substance abuse screening schedule.

The lawmaker will not be talking to the media, according to his attorney, Mike Nichols.

Genetski is campaigning for a third term in Michigan's House of Representatives.

The Sentinel reports Genetski faces "having up to 6 points added to his driving record;" a $1,000 annual driver responsibility fee for two years; and being ordered to community service.

A survey conducted by Michigan State University's Charles Ballard shows an improved approval rating for Governor Snyder.

The latest "State of the State" survey from Michigan State University indicates people in the state are feeling pretty good about the economy, a little more positive about the Governor, and the same about the President.

MSU Economics Professor Charles Ballard conducts the survey of likely voters in Michigan once a quarter. The latest was taken in August.

It shows that Governor Snyder's approval rating rose, from 33 to 38 percent. 

That's still lower than the President's 41 percent.  But that 41 percent is unchanged from the previous quarter's survey.   

Political Roundup: Citizenship verification box?

Sep 20, 2012
League of Women Voters

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is pushing for a citizenship verification box on the application for the November ballot. She says there could be an estimated 4,000 non-citizens registered to vote in Michigan. 

A lawsuit has been brought to block the question from the ballot and some county clerks are refusing to put the citizenship question to voters.

Michigan Secretary of State, Ruth Johnson.

We are now 47 days away from the November general election.

Here in Michigan, the political races have some competition in the headlines with "the box": the box that you're supposed to tick off to declare that, yes, you are an American citizen.

Political campaigns are using viral videos to promote their candidates.
Bridget McCormack / YouTube

Why would a political campaign want to release an online video that’s part of a genre best known for piano-playing cats?

Why would it risk handing over control of its message to the unruly masses of YouTube and Facebook commenters?

Well, this very article is one reason.

The campaign viral video relies on big names, controversy, or just downright strange content (see Carly Fiorina's "Demon Sheep") to garner the attention of social media users. If all goes well, media outlets will pick up the story.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

You’ve got a lot to decide on election day. It’s not just who will be president, or elected to Congress or to the state legislature. There will be five state constitutional amendments. Some people are concerned about whether adding a lot of Constitutional amendments muddies a document that is designed to be a clear guide for the state.

Debbie Stabenow maintains a lead over Pete Hoekstra in a new Michigan poll.
Office of Senator Stabenow

A recent poll of likely voters by Lansing-based Marketing Resource Group has President Barack Obama and Senator Debbie Stabenow maintaining slim leads in Michigan.

MLive has the story:

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson released a statement claiming nearly 4,000 registered voters in Michigan are not U.S. citizens.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson released a statement claiming as many as 4,000 registered voters in Michigan are not U.S. citizens. David Eggert of Mlive has the story:

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder voices his opinion on the ballot proposals.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder released six videos expressing his opinion on the six ballot proposals facing voters this fall.

And just like the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Gov. Snyder is encouraging a "no" vote on all five proposed amendments to the Michigan Constitution. He is encouraging a "yes" vote on the referendum on the emergency manager law (Public Act 4).

From Snyder's press release:

“I respect the initiative process as a fundamental democratic right, but the proposed constitutional amendments in November’s election have potentially dangerous long-term consequences for Michigan,” Snyder said. “Enshrining these seriously flawed proposals within our constitution would roll back positive reforms that are helping reinvent our state, and I encourage citizens to view them with skepticism.”

You can listen to Gov. Snyder's reasoning in his YouTube videos below. By the time he gets to proposal six, his voice seems a little strained:

The Super PAC Restore Our Future and other groups have spent about $13 million for ads since February.
screen grab

Update 5:13 p.m.

A pro-Mitt Romney group will start running ads attacking President Obama’s jobs record in Michigan beginning tomorrow.

Recent polls show the president leading his Republican challenger in Michigan. And the Romney campaign has focused its own TV ad spending elsewhere.

Charlie Spies is co-founder of the Restore Our Future "Super PAC." Super PACS can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions and individuals.

Spies says polls suggest Romney is still competitive in Michigan:

“Right now it shows Michigan with a slight Obama lead, but certainly within the margin that it’s competitive. And we’re very optimistic about the upper Midwest…both Wisconsin and Michigan.”

Spies says recent campaign stops in by Vice President Joe Biden and his wife show the Obama campaign is still worried about losing Michigan.

10:48 a.m.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody spoke with Restore Our Future reps this morning.

They confirmed that they will start running a new ad in Michigan markets starting tomorrow.

It's a one million dollar ad buy.

They told Carmody they expect to do a similar ad buy in Michigan next week.

10:09 a.m.

Conservative 'Super PACs' supporting Mitt Romney's presidential run recently pulled their ads out of Michigan.

It was an indication the state wasn't polling well for the Republican candidate.

But Sarah Wheaton over at the NY Times blog "The Caucus" writes some Super PAC money might be coming back.

Despite losing traction in the polls after the nominating conventions, Wheaton says Romney has one clear advantage over President Obama - "outside groups with much more money to spend supporting his candidacy and tactically placing their bets in states where they believe he has a chance to win."

Right now, Michigan appears to be a long shot bet for these groups.

Restore Our Future’s $720,000 investment in Michigan is particularly remarkable. Mr. Romney’s campaign and his other allies seem to have all but given up on the state, even though the candidate grew up there and his father, George Romney, was once governor. The Romney campaign itself, which is running state-specific spots in those states it ostensibly considers to be the most in play, left Michigan off that list.

...But the ability of super PACs to raise and spend freely gives them flexibility to invest in some long shots. And it could also provoke the Obama campaign to spend some precious ad dollars on a state it considers relatively safe.

It remains to be seen how the polls will play out in Michigan after a video of Romney was released of the candidate making some potentially politically damaging comments while talking at a private fundraiser earlier this year. The Romney camp quickly put together a press conference to respond to the video.

As Rick Pluta reported yesterday, a coalition of voters' rights groups has filed a federal lawsuit to prevent Secretary of State Ruth Johnson from including a citizenship question on Michigan's November ballots.

Kary L. Moss, executive director for the ACLU of Michigan, said in a press release that Secretary Johnson was "not above the law."

Voting booth

Update 4:39 p.m.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is being sued for ordering a citizenship question onto forms handed to voters at their local precincts. It asks people to check a box affirming their U.S. citizenship. But no one can legally be denied a ballot for refusing to check the box.
Jocelyn Benson directs the Michigan Center for Election Law, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. She said Secretary of State Johnson is acting outside the realm of her authority.

"And it's not going to prevent non-citizens from voting, but it is something that will create and has created some confusion in our elections process," said Benson.

The lawsuit was filed today in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Johnson's office would not comment specifically on the lawsuit. But she has said the question is simply meant to remind people that only U.S. citizens can vote in elections.

3:06 p.m.

Some county clerks are suing the state over boxes on voter forms that ask people whether they are citizens.

The lawsuit will say that Secretary of State Ruth Johnson does not have the authority on her own to put the boxes on election forms. A voter cannot be denied a ballot for refusing to check the box.

Earlier this year, Governor Rick Snyder vetoed a bill that would have required voter forms to include a citizenship question.

(we'll update this post - check back)

Conservative Super-PACS have pulled their campaign ads supporting Mitt Romney in Michigan. That’s fueling speculation the Romney campaign and conservative groups will move their efforts and money elsewhere. 

Commentator Keith Oppenheim has these thoughts.

Back in June, I thought we had a chance.

The polls were getting tight.

The commercials were booming.

Immortal Poet / Flickr

It's official. There will be six questions on the state's November ballot: Five proposed amendments to the Michigan Constitution and one referendum on the state’s emergency manager law. And, we’re looking at some big battles here; we’ll certainly see a whole lot of money pouring into these efforts to change state law. In this week’s It’s Just Politics we take a look at how these ballot questions just might work as vote-drivers.

It’s a GOTV Kind of a Year

This year we have very few undecided voters – that group of anywhere from a third to even less than a quarter of the people that wait until the last minute to make up their minds. A lot of people don’t vote at all – in Michigan, about 40 percent of registered voters don’t actually make it to the polls. That’s referring, however, to the presidential race. In a presidential election year  that’s the biggest driver that gets people out to vote. There’s no doubt though that more people are still undecided about races and questions that are lower on the ballot. So, for many political strategists, the question becomes: what happens if you can somehow persuade some of those people to get out on Election Day?

Can Ballot Questions Get-Out-the-Vote?

Certainly, ballot questions are used to determine policy on issues. But they can also motivate people to get out and vote on issues they care about like same-sex marriage, affirmative action or abortion. This year, in Michigan, we have questions dealing with union rights and taxes. Democrats are pinning some of their electoral hopes on the Protect Our Jobs ballot question. The Protect Our Jobs proposal would guarantee bargaining rights, reverse a bunch of anti-union laws passed by the Legislature and Governor Snyder, and make sure there’s no way lawmakers could pass a right-to-work law in Michigan.

MichigaMichigan Gov. Rick Snyder at a Univ. of Michigan basketball game.n Gov. Snyder gets cagey on subject of weight loss.

Cyndy spoke with Michigan Governor Snyder for Thursday’s premiere show.

The Governor is just back from the Republican National Convention and told Cyndy that he thinks Michigan could go for Republican Mitt Romney in November.

“There are good chances and I told that to their [the Romney] campaign,” Snyder said.

He noted the major sweep for Republicans – both statewide and nationally – in 2010 as an example of the GOP making headways in the state.

Snyder also says he doesn’t plan to say negative things about President Obama during the presidential campaign.

“Public service is a major challenge on anyone,” Snyder said. “We need to partner with the federal government and local government and we want to work in a positive, constructive way. I don’t believe in doing negative activities,and I stick to the positive side of things.”

There are two ways you can podcast "Stateside with Cynthia Canty"

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

I just spent about $5,000 at the two national political conventions.

No, I wasn’t out wining and dining with the heavy hitters, and despite how much my critics would love to finally be able to prove my biases, I wasn’t handing out political contributions to candidates either.

I spent the money to send Michigan Radio reporters to cover the Michigan delegation at each convention.

Micheal Rosenfield has the skinny on the designer of the First Lady's DNC dress.

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter / U.S. House of Representatives

Some voters in southeast Michigan have more than November's general election to think about.

Tomorrow, is is primary day in Michigan's 11th District.

That's when voters in parts of Wayne and Oakland counties will choose a temporary replacement for Republican U.S. Representative Thaddeus McCotter.

He quit in July after it was discovered that petition signatures were forged or copied in at least two of his campaigns.

Five Republicans are vying for the seat. They'll face a Democrat, a Libertarian and a U.S. Taxpayers Party Candidate in the November 6th general election.

The taxpayer tab for the special election will be at least $650,000.

Low voter turnout is predicted.

Four of McCotter's former staff  members have been charged in the petition scandal.

McCotter has not been charged.

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow says she will participate in two debates with Republican U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra.

Stabenow made the announcement this afternoon. Hoekstra has been calling for six debates with the two-term Democrat from Lansing.

Details have not been finalized, but the Associated Press reports Stabenow has accepted debate invitations from the Detroit Economic Club and Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Three ballot proposals will appear on the November ballot. But four others are in limbo until the Michigan Supreme Court rules on them.

Depending upon how the court rules, voters could find themselves with up to seven questions to answer on the ballot. You can read more about the seven proposals here.

user Jeffness / Wikimedia Commons

The Michigan Supreme Court will hold a hearing tomorrow on whether four questions should appear on the statewide November ballot.

The court is expected to rule very quickly to meet election deadlines.

The proposals would

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio's All Things Considered host, Jennifer White talks with reporter Steve Carmody. He's been covering the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.

More than 100 Michigan delegates are at the GOP convention. Among the delegation is Governor Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette. Also in the mix are Republican Party members from around the state.

"The primary focus for a lot of the delegates is obviously, get Mitt Romney elected...but when you get away from the simple politics, the main thrust of what the delegates are most concerned about is jobs. They say, the economy and bringing more jobs to Michigan is their primary concern," Carmody said.

The big question is whether Michigan could play a bigger role in the election than previously thought. Carmody said:

"The Republicans here insist that it is a swing state, and that it will play a pivotal role. Of course, others cite different polls that show that there is a much wider gap in Michigan than there are in other swing states."

For example, "Governor Chris Christie from New Jersey was talking to the Michigan delegation, and he said that Michigan is, as he described it, 'a state of consequence,' which means it is a swing state.  That if Michigan does turn out and vote for Mitt Romney that would put Mitt Romney over the top as president. And he said it’s up to people in that room, the Michigan delegation, to make sure that they do get out the Republican vote.  He said this morning that, you don’t want to wake up the next day and find out that Mitt Romney fell one percentage point short in Michigan and that cost him the election," said Carmody.

Michigan delegates wearing U of M jerseys in honor of Pres. Ford (former U of M football player)
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio reporter Steve Carmody is covering the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.

The storm has passed and the delegates are gathering for tonight's program where New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will deliver the keynote address.

National political conventions are always filled with color and a little clowning from enthusiastic delegates.

user eyspahn / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Update Wednesday, October 10, 11:30 a.m.

Editor's note: This post was created after state election officials voted on pending ballot proposals.

There are now six proposals on the ballot.

To see a comprehensive list with links to the ballot language, see this more current post:

The six ballot proposals facing Michigan Voters

Elaine Ezekiel / Michigan Radio

The Board of State Canvassers deadlocks on the ballot proposal that would require public votes to construct a new international bridge. The measure is backed by the owners of the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, who are trying to block a competing bridge. They could now go to court to get on the ballot.