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elections

The other day, I told my significant other she should plan to be out of town on election day. “Was it something I said?" she asked. Well, no. It’s the way election law works in Michigan. We may all face a ballot that is as long as the proverbial bed sheet.

Not only are there a vast number of candidates and races, we could be asked to decide on four, eight, possibly 11 different complicated ballot proposals. Do you know what would happen if every voter stayed in the booth till she or he managed to figure all this out? We’d all still be in line in four years.

Naturally, nobody does that. So people either skip the proposals or take uninformed guesses. In the case of judicial candidates, too many of us go for familiar or judicial-sounding names, which is why there are a lot of judges named Kelly.

We also, oddly enough, elect trustees of our three biggest universities, and what’s even more bizarre, elect them on a partisan basis. Since almost nobody has ever heard of any of these folks, the winners tend to be of the party that wins the top of the ticket.

Republican Conference / Flickr

A formal investigation into possible election fraud by a congressional campaign will wait until after a state board meets next week.

The Board of State Canvassers is expected to formally reject petitions filed by Congressman Thaddeus McCotter’s re-election campaign. The petitions can then be turned over to the state Attorney General's office.

Attorney General Bill Schuette says the delay has not stopped his office from communicating with elections officials on the case.

"So it appears there is a problem, but we’ve not received anything officially yet from the Secretary of State’s office, and when we do, we’ll review it in a thorough fashion," said Schuette.

The Secretary of State’s office says it appears hundreds of signatures on McCotter’s nominating petitions were faked.

Schuette said it's a textbook example of how not to collect signatures.

"It's kind of elementary. When you run for class president, you gotta get the signatures to have the election, and it appears there’s a huge problem here," said Schuette.

McCotter has acknowledged problems with his petitions and says he plans to run as a write-in candidate on the Republican primary ballot in August.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Elections officials are scrambling to find eight new locations where Flint residents can vote in November’s election. 

The city’s five dozen voting precincts are located in 35 buildings around Flint.

But, the U.S. Justice Department says 4 churches used as polling places don’t meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.    And, the Flint School District is also closing 4 schools this summer that have been used as polling places. 

“We’re going to go ahead and close them and try to locate alternate sites, which is hard to do in a community such as Flint which is an older urban area," says Inez M. Brown, the Flint City Clerk. 

Brown says six of the eight polling places are located on Flint’s north side, which may make it more difficult to find enough appropriate locations. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Lawmakers in the Michigan House are debating proposed election law changes, including one that would require a voter to present a photo ID when applying for an absentee ballot in person.

The bills have passed the Republican-led Senate but Democrats object to some provisions. Democrats and a representative of the League of Women Voters told the House Redistricting and Elections Committee on Tuesday the proposals would create a barrier to voting for some residents, such as those who don't have driver's licenses.

Absentee voters could sign affidavits saying they don't have the ID and still pick up ballots, but those ballots could be challenged.

Another bill would require a photo ID or a birth certificate when registering to vote.

Supporters of the proposals say the requirements would protect against fraud.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

People who want to put a question on the ballot could soon have to get their petitions pre-approved by a government panel before they could gather signatures. That’s under a measure that cleared the state House today on a party-line vote.

The measure could force current petition drives to get state approval and then start over. The petition drives would guarantee union organizing rights, require disclosure of businesses’ political spending, and boost renewable energy requirements on utilities.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Tuesday’s election did not change the balance of power in the state house. 

Two vacant state house seats were up for grabs.

Voters in Genesee County filled a vacant state house seat on Tuesday.   The seat was made vacant last fall by a union-backed campaign that succeeded in recalling Republican Paul Scott.

Last night, Republican Joe Graves defeated Democrat Steve Losey to serve out the final year of Scott’s unfinished term.     

Graves says his message of jobs lead to the victory.

Detroit officials are fast-tracking a process to change the way Council members represent the city.

Detroit voters approved a plan in November to elect seven of nine City Council members by district, when they approved a new city charter. Currently, all nine members represent the city at-large.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 The Lansing City Council will talk about the benefits of meeting less often tonight.  

The city charter requires the council to meet 50 times a year.  City Clerk Chris Swope says, with that schedule, the council is wasting money.   

“It’s not just a matter of that cost but…we should be more efficient. People shouldn’t have to watch 50 times a year to keep an eye on what the city council is doing," says Swope.   

Swope proposes reducing the current city council meeting schedule from 50 required meetings to 26 meetings each year.  

Cle0patra / Flickr

Local elections are underway across the state today. Among other votes in Michigan, two mayors of large cities will be elected, Detroiters will vote on changes to their city charter, and a state representative is up for recall. But, despite the fact that there are important issues on today's ballots, very few voters will actually make it to the polls.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Jack Lessenberry, Michigan Radio's Political Analyst, about why voter turnout is historically low in local elections that are held in so-called "off-years."

Election Day

Nov 8, 2011

My guess is that if you are listening to this on the radio, you haven’t bothered to vote today. That’s a guess, but an educated one. Based on recent history, fewer than one-fifth of those eligible will bother to vote today - and that is too bad for a whole lot of reasons.

Whatever your politics, whether left or right or somewhere in the middle, we ought to be able to agree on this much: Politicians often behave badly when they think voters aren’t paying attention. If you’ve been following Wayne County, you may know what I mean.

How could a county give large “severance payments“ to workers going from one government job to another? Simple. Somebody clearly thought nobody would notice.

Thanks to some diligent reporters, we finally did.

But not very many of us have taken notice of this year’s election - even though polls show that very few of us are satisfied with the way things are going. That’s partly because this is what’s called an off-off year election, one held in an odd-numbered year.

This election isn’t seen as very sexy. There’s no vote for president, or governor, or congress. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. As old Tip O’Neill used to say, “All Politics is Local.”

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Jackson, like other Michigan cities, will hold an election next week. And like in other cities, those elected will face the reality of how they will choose to spend a declining amount of tax dollars.  

Both candidates for mayor of Jackson are realtors. And both bring a ‘realtor’s optimism’ when they talk about their city’s future. 

Voting Booths
Flickr

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said Michigan should allow anyone to vote by absentee ballot without having to give a reason why they cannot make it to a polling place on Election Day.

It’s one of several election proposals she outlined today.

They also include cleaning voter rolls of dead people, those who have moved, and non-citizens. 

Johnson said people should be allowed to cast absentee ballots without giving a reason why they cannot show up at a polling place on Election Day.

She said people who vote absentee would face the same identity requirements as people who cast ballots on Election Day.

"We need the same level of security in our elections whether it's absentee or it's people who come to vote at the polls. Michigan is a state where you must show an ID, a photo ID, or sign an affidavit of identity. We would require the same standard for the no-reason absentee," said Johnson.

Chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party Mark Brewer says the Republican’s election plans provide less ballot access than what’s being done in other states.

 "Many other states, including those run by Republicans, on a bipartisan basis are adopting reforms like early voting. They’re letting people register to vote on Election Day. All these are designed to make and have made it much easier for people to vote," said Brewer.

Brewer also said voting by non-citizens is not a big problem because they would risk deportation.

He said the effort to stop non-citizens from voting plays to racial fears.

Johnson does not favor early voting or Election Day voter registration as methods to spur more voter participation.

She has called for a federal law to give her office access to immigration and Social Security records that would help clear non-citizens off the state’s voter list.

She said going forward the state will also require people to promise they are U.S. citizens before they can vote.

Recall campaigns against the state’s elected officials have until the end of the week  to hand in petition signatures to be considered for the November ballot. There have been more than two dozen recall campaigns against Republican lawmakers, and just three against Democratic lawmakers. 

Two of those lawmakers – State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer and state Representative Barb Byrum – are in the clear after an elections panel in Ingham County rejected petitions language against them. 

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson says July 5 is the deadline to register to vote in Michigan primary elections Aug. 2.

Cities, townships and school districts are holding votes in August.

Voter registration can be done by mail, at county, city or township clerk's offices or by visiting any secretary of state branch office. The mail-in form is available on the Department of State's website at www.Michigan.gov/sos.

Residents can check their registration status on the Michigan Voter Information Center website at www.Michigan.gov/vote. That site also has information on voting by absentee ballot and the state's voter identification requirement, along with maps to polling place and sample ballots.

Those who wish to receive their absentee ballot by mail must submit their application by 2 p.m. July 30.

President Barack Obama
Pete Souza / White House

The election of President Obama in 2008 made some believe racism in the United States had declined. That's according to a study from the University of Michigan. It measured perceptions of racism amongst Americans before the 2008 election and again in 2010.

Nicholas Valentino is a professor with U of M. He says it’s difficult to know how perceptions about racism are formed. But he thinks it might have to do with obstacles different racial groups face:

May 3rd Election

May 4, 2011

The voters sent an important message yesterday, to themselves and their communities, and indirectly to the politicians in Lansing. It’s a message the governor and legislature need to hear.

Specifically, the people said that they are willing to pay more for services  important to them. They aren’t necessarily happy with the way things are going or with the people running things. In West Michigan area, they tossed out a boatload of school board members.

Yet the same voters renewed a number of millage proposals, often by wide margins. Sometimes they even voted to increase their taxes, when they were convinced services were necessary.

Grand Rapids narrowly voted to increase a rapid transit millage. Hudsonville voted millions to upgrade the school system.

This trend was especially strong in Southeast Michigan. Struggling, older blue-collar suburbs like Ferndale and Hazel Park have been hard hit by declining property values and a steep drop in state revenue sharing.

Yesterday, they asked their hard-pressed citizens for new money to keep up services.

These aren’t people who have a lot of money, and many no longer have jobs. But they said yes. In tiny Clawson, the people voted more money for their library, a year after the voters in the neighboring and more affluent city of Troy voted to close theirs.

By far, the biggest story was in Southfield, a city of office towers and mostly well-maintained split-level and ranch homes north of Detroit. Seventy percent of its seventy thousand residents are African-American -- mostly middle-class families.

City leaders laid it on the line. They needed a five mill property tax increase, mostly for police and fire services, and they needed it now. Otherwise, they would have to lay off half the city’s police and firemen. Residents knew what that could mean.

They voted the additional taxes by a margin of five to one. Now, these results do not mean that the voters are in a wildly spending mood. They seemed discerning. In Flint, they voted money to keep policemen on the job, but turned down a request for new funds to reopen it the city jail. In blue-collar Garden City, home of iconic rocker Mitch Ryder, officials asked for a twelve-mill increase. Voters said that was too much. They also were reluctant to combine services, such as police and fire. They said no to that in cities as different as Jackson and Harper Woods.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Election Results

Voters went to the polls across Michigan yesterday to decide a variety of issues, from school millages, to funding for public safety, transportation, and libraries.

  • In Flint, voters renewed a millage that pays for more than a dozen police officers. Flint has struggled with a rising violent crime rate for the past few years. City police have investigated about ninety homicides in the last sixteen months, Steve Carmody reports. But, as Carmody notes, “Flint voters narrowly rejected a millage request that would have reopened the city jail. Budget problems have meant the jail has only been used sporadically since the late 1980’s.”
  • Lansing city residents voted no on a millage that would have kept public safety services from facing deep cuts. The millage would have increased city residents’ property taxes about four percent to raise about $8.5 million over five years, Sarah Alvarez reports. Lansing faces a $20 million dollar budget shortfall next year.
  • Supporters of a millage to fund and expand bus services in the Grand Rapids metro area celebrated a narrow victory last night, Lindsey Smith reports. More than 34,000 people cast ballots and the millage passed by just 136 votes. The bus system, known as The Rapid, will now be able to serve riders later at night, on the weekends, and more frequently during the workday.
WoodleyWonderWorks / Flickr

Voters in Washtenaw County passed a special education millage renewal in yesterday's election. That means local school districts and charter schools in the county will receive about $14 million dollars for special education services. According to unofficial election results released by Washtenaw County, 76% of voters approved the millage renewal.

Heritage Newspapers reports:

The millage is specifically for special education students, who make up about 14 percent of the students within the WISD. The largest number is faced with some form of learning disability, and the second most have a speech or language impairment.

O Canada

May 3, 2011

Yesterday, America’s most important ally and trading partner had an historic election which rocked the foundations of that nation’s politics and has huge implications for the western hemisphere, the United States in general and Michigan in particular.

You would not, however, know anything about that from most of the mainstream media. National Public Radio has covered the Canadian National Election, far better than most, but I don’t even think they have paid enough attention to the story.

Most of the rest of the media, especially in Michigan, largely continues to be consumed with the aftermath of our government’s assassination yesterday of the supreme Al-Qaeda leader.

Yes, Osama bin Laden is still dead, and I don’t mean to minimize the implications of that story, or its continuing repercussions. But we knew about that yesterday.

A group opposed to Governor Rick Snyder submitted language today for a recall petition.  It’s the beginning of what may be a long process. 

The group, Michigan Citizens United, is behind the recall campaign.    Gerald Rozner is the group’s spokesman.  He says Gov. Snyder deserves to be recalled for signing legislation that gives state appointed financial managers broad powers to void city union contracts and plans to increase taxes on pensioners. 

Redrawing the political map of Michigan

Apr 7, 2011
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A state House panel next week will begin the process of redrawing Michigan’s political maps. The first hearing will focus on results from the 2010 U-S Census.  

Michigan lost population over the past decade, and the state will lose a seat in the U.S. House. With Republicans controlling all branches of state government, Democrats are worried that new district lines will target a vulnerable Democratic seat like that of US Congressman Gary Peters.          

The state House Redistricting and Elections Committee is chaired by Republican Representative Pete Lund. Lund led the successful GOP push to retake the Michigan House last fall. Lund said in a statement that he looks forward to the hearings and, "a fair, effective redistricting process for our state."

Moughni's campaign Facebook page

A former U.S. House of Representatives candidate is suing Facebook.

Majed Moughni  is a lawyer from Dearborn. He ran during the Republican primaries for the U.S. House of Representatives seat held by John Dingell in 2010. His campaign strategy involved using his personal Facebook page to gain as many friends as possible across the voting district. But Facebook shut down his account in June before the August primaries for sending too many friend requests. Moughni says this also shut down his campaign.

Now he’s suing Facebook, but he’s not asking for money. He wants the social media company to stop using an automatic system to delete accounts and to restore his personal page. He says there should a way for Facebook users to appeal account deactivation:

“We think a multi-billion dollar corporation should at least have a live person that you can communicate with, a call-in center, that you can, you know, at least file a petition if your account was wrong deactivated – you should be able to get some recourse.”

Moughni said uprisings in Egypt and Libya prove how important Facebook is. But in his next campaign, he will use more than just Facebook.

UPDATED: According to the DetNews.com, a spokesman for Facebook said the account was disabled by an automated system that "is designed to prevent spammers and fakes from harassing our users and polluting the ecosystem." He also said that the "system always warns a user when they are nearing thresholds that will have features blocked or their account disabled. These warnings come as a pop-up that must be clicked through."

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio News

Money
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A new study finds 3 Michigan congressional campaigns were swamped with outside money during the recent election.  And most of that money paid for negative ads.

National political parties, unions and special interest groups spent $19 million on issue ads leading up to the November election.   The money was focused on the 1st, 7th and 9th congressional districts, where Democrats were trying to fend off strong Republican challenges.

Governor-elect Rick Snyder
Photo Courtesy of www.rickformichigan.com

Update 8:34 AM:

The Associated Press is reporting Govenror-elect Rick Snyder has chosen House Speaker Andy Dillon to be the state's next treasurer.  Former Lt. Gov Dick Posthumus will be his legislative affairs advisor.

7:16 AM:

Rick Snyder talking to people
Rick Snyder's campaign website

The confetti and balloons have be swept up, and the yard signs are slowly being removed.

At 12:01 pm on January 1st, 2011, Michigan will have a new governor.

Governor-elect Snyder is assembling the people that will move into positions of power in Lansing.

Snyder has chosen three former Engler administration officials to head up the transition team:

The campaigns for Michigan candidates for Congress drew a lot of money from out of state. 

The price tag for the Congressional campaigns comes in at about $40 million.  Rich Robinson is with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.  He says the political parties in Washington, unions, and non-profits with anonymous contributors all chipped in.

“Of the $40 million, I’m estimating $16.8 million of that came from outside sources.”

Voter turnout map
Lani Chisnell / Michigan Radio

The Secretary of State's office has released unofficial voter turnout results for all the counties in Michigan (the State Board of Canvassers will make them official later this month).

  • The voters in Leelanau county scored the best turnout rate in the state at 61.60%
  • The voters in Cass county scored the worst turnout rate in the state at 35.74%

Here are the top 5:

(Sarah Hulett, Michigan Radio)

Governor-elect Rick Snyder met this morning with the woman he'll replace in Lansing.

Snyder and Governor Jennifer Granholm shook hands and posed for pictures in front of reporters before the meeting.

"A lot of hard work in the next couple of months," Granholm said, "but I appreciate the commitment to working together that you've continually professed. I think that's going to be healthy for Michigan. Our team stands ready to do whatever it takes to make sure this is a smooth transition."

I Voted sticker
K Latham/Creative Commons

Governor

Republican Rick Snyder beat Democrat Virg Bernero in the race for governor. Snyder says the state’s economy and government have been broken for too many years and called for inclusiveness rather than divisiveness.

Michigan Legislature

It appears that Republicans have taken control of the Michigan House and added to their majority in the state Senate.  That means the GOP now controls both houses of the Michigan legislature and the Governor’s office.

Michigan Congressional Races

Photo Courtsey of rickformichigan.com

We're getting word this morning that Governor-elect Rick Snyder will meet with Govenror Granholm this morning in Detroit.  The Associated Press reports:

Snyder is expected to announce details of his transition team during an 11 a.m. news conference at the Book Cadillac hotel, then spend the rest of the day meeting with advisers and staff.

Snyder faces a projected $1.4 billion dollar deficit when he takes office on January 1st, and a state jobless rate of 13%.

 

 

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