voting

Polling place.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Campaign posters, billboards, and newspaper, radio and television ads have long been the delivery methods for political candidates trying to win the hearts of voters. But more and more, campaigns are using technology to track and reach you. 

Well, the election is officially four weeks away, but not for me. I voted yesterday morning, in the best place possible, at my kitchen table.

I can legally do this, because I am more than 60 years old. If you reach that age, you qualify to be sent an absentee ballot through the mail, every election.

I won’t tell you for whom I voted, but I will tell you this: We’d be a better democracy if everyone could vote this way, if everyone got a ballot in the mail, took the time to study it, and then mailed it in.

Or as I do, drop it off at city hall.

TIF mismanagement can lead to blight.
Flickr.com

 

Tax increment financing, or TIF, is a flexible tool for downtown development authority boards aiming to encourage private investment and increase the taxable value of their municipality.

TIFs enable portions of a city’s regular property tax to be used for economic development, without a vote from taxpayers. There are eight types of authorities in Michigan that can engage in this type of financing.

David Bieri is an assistant professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Michigan.

Bieri explains the good and bad uses of TIFs. In the early 2000s, DDAs from Kalamazoo to Detroit addressed blight through brownfield remitigation. On the other hand, Bieri cites Bloomfield Park, the unfinished mini-city in Bloomfield Hills, as an example of TIFs gone bad: Blight was created rather than mitigated. 

The Michigan Democratic Party is expanding its effort to kickstart the absentee voting process online.

Party officials announced Thursday that voters statewide can now apply for absentee ballots online, through the website miabsentee.com.

The site is designed for mobile internet devices. MDP chair Lon Johnson said this is about merging two trends: more people choosing absentee voting, and the growing use of mobile devices.

Detroit voters will now be able to access, sign and submit absentee ballot applications on their smartphones.

Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey and Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson announced the new initiative Wednesday.

Winfrey said it’s simply a matter of meeting voters where they tend to be these days—online.

“So why not? Why not be able to use their smartphone to request an absentee ballot?” Winfrey asked.

Whatever you think about the way society is evolving, there continues to be progress when it comes to human and civil rights and freedoms. Yesterday, Governor Rick Snyder signed two bills protecting the rights of breast-feeding mothers to nurse in public.  

True, this always should have been a universal human right, but progress doesn’t always come as quickly as it should -- nor for the right reasons. The governor, never eager to go out on a limb on social issues, said the bill would help prevent obesity.

Meanwhile, it seems increasingly likely that same-sex marriage will also be fully legal before very long. These have been hard-fought battles, as all struggles for civil rights always have been. But to the best of my knowledge, nobody has been threatening to kill anyone for breast-feeding. 

Yet I got a call last night from an old civil rights attorney who reminded me that we lived in a very different world half a century ago.

Two years ago, voters in a suburban Detroit congressional district were stunned to learn that their congressman, Thaddeus McCotter, had failed to qualify for the primary election ballot.

Anyone running for Congress needs to submit 1,000 valid signatures to get on the ballot.

It turned out his staff had illegally and clumsily photocopied old petition signatures, instead of collecting new ones. McCotter not only retired, but abruptly quit before his term ended.

That left just one name on the GOP primary ballot: Kerry Bentivolio, known informally as “Krazy Kerry,” a reindeer farmer, Santa Claus impersonator, and failed high school teacher.

Bentivolio is now a congressman, and establishment Republicans are spending millions to try and dislodge him in this August’s primary.

Now it seems something similar has happened to John Conyers, a Democrat who has represented Detroit in Congress for half a century. Most of the signatures he submitted seem to have been collected by circulators who weren’t registered to vote.

One has a criminal record and is a wanted fugitive. It seems very likely that Conyers will not be on the ballot this year.

If so, it's possible that the only name on the Democratic primary ballot will be that of The Rev. Horace Sheffield, a longtime Detroit clergyman with a reputation of his own. Sheffield got his picture in the papers twice in February. Once when he announced for Congress, and once when he was booked on domestic violence charges.

Voting Booths
Flickr

The Pew Charitable Trusts' latest Elections Performance Index looked at all 50 states and the District of Columbia to measure how well they conducted their elections. Wait times at polling stations, problems with registration or absentee ballots, and voter turnout were just some of the things examined.

So how did Michigan do? We talked to Sean Greene, research manager for The Pew Charitable Trusts, to find out.

Listen to the full interview above.

Lars Plougmann / Creative Commons

During his recent State of the Union speech, President Obama made passing mention of our voting system.

"Citizenship means standing up for everyone’s right to vote. Last year, part of the Voting Rights Act was weakened.  But conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are working together to strengthen it, and the bipartisan commission I appointed last year has offered reforms so that no one has to wait more than a half hour to vote.  Let’s support these efforts.  It should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank account, that drives our democracy."

So, the voting system is on the president's mind. So, too, is it on the mind of Michigan Radio's political commentator Jack Lessenberry. He joined us today to discuss the problems he has noticed with our voting system.

Listen to the full interview above.

After years of debate, Congress has sent the almost $1 trillion farm bill to President Obama, and, as usual, opposition to the legislation was a left-right affair. On today's show: Congressman Dan Kildee of Flint joins us to talk about why he voted in favor.

Then, Michigan Radio’s political commentator Jack Lessenberry explained why fixing Michigan’s voting system may be harder than you think.

And, medical students are reaching out to provide health care to uninsured people. We spoke with one of these students about free student-run medical clinics.

And, a new mobile and Web app is providing food for hungry children in Grand Rapids.

Also, we spoke to an economist from the University of Michigan about the success of Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty.

And, the owner of Stonehedge Fiber Mill in East Jordan, Michigan, joined us today to tell us about how she was approached to provide yarn for the Ralph Lauren Olympic closing ceremonies sweaters. 

First on the show, it's Thursday, which means it's time for our weekly check-in with Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes.

He's been going through Gov. Snyder's proposed budget for the new fiscal year and has decided the governor's got something going for him: what President George Herbert Walker Bush called "The Big Mo."

Daniel Howes joined us today to discuss the issue.

People voting
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson says she's asked the state Attorney General's office to investigate 10 people who aren't U.S. citizens but have voted in past Michigan elections.

MLive reports the letter to Bill Schuette calls for an "investigation, and if appropriate, prosecution."

The Secretary of State's office says the people are from Kent, Macomb, Oakland, Roscommon and Wayne counties. Names of those involved haven't been released, but Johnson's office says they voted in presidential and gubernatorial elections in the past decade.

Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout says they received the letter from Johnson and the referrals are under review.

The 10 people area some of 600 people who earlier were verified as not being U.S. citizens by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

With emergency manager Kevyn Orr running Detroit, the city’s elected officials have very few real powers. So Detroiters could be forgiven for asking: Why bother to vote at all?

But for some Detroiters, there was no question about exercising the right to vote.

And turnout for this election was higher than expected, at upwards of 25%.

Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey had projected that less than 25% of voters would participate.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Today  is the deadline to register to vote for the November elections. Michigan residents can go to their local Secretary of State's office or a city clerk's office to register.

Fred Woodhams is with the Michigan Secretary of State. He says there is still time for people to register to vote.

"This November, 75 of Michigan's 83 counties will have elections. Probably the most publicized one is the Detroit mayoral race," he said. "Certainly Detroit residents will be voting on city council members as well, and cities throughout the state will have council elections."

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan voters will probably still need to affirm their citizenship before they cast ballots.   That's despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling today.

The nation’s highest court struck down an Arizona law that required individuals to prove their citizenship status when they registered to vote.

Michigan requires voters to ‘affirm’ their citizenship status, but not necessarily provide proof.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

US education secretary to visit Detroit schools

"President Obama's education secretary will be in Detroit on Monday for a town hall meeting on education issues and visits to three area schools," the Associated Press reports.

Palisades nuclear power plant shut down after water leak

"Operators of the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in southwestern Michigan removed it from service Sunday because of a repeat water leak from a tank that caused seepage into the control room last year. The plant has been under extra Nuclear Regulatory Commission scrutiny after numerous safety issues. There were four shutdowns last year and at least two this year," the Associated Press reports.

Michigan voters head to the polls Tuesday

Many Michigan communities will be voting in local elections on Tuesday. Local elections including filling the vacant mayor's seat in Troy, choosing a new state senator in Genesee County, and in many parts of the state, residents can vote on school board issues.

user eyspahn / Flickr

A couple of recent columns in Bridge Magazine caught our eye and we wanted to bring the writers together to share their thoughts with you.

The subject: exercising our right to vote.

From coast-to-coast, too many Americans sit on the sidelines when it comes to Election Day.

And, looking at the City of Detroit, with its state-appointed emergency manager running things, Detroiter Karen Dumas believes that Detroiters have paid a price for what she calls a "lack of diligence."

She spelled out her thoughts in a recent Bridge column.

And Bridge staff writer Nancy Derringer reports on a group in Detroit trying to "make voting cool," especially among the young people who are starting to move into the city.

Listen to the full interview above.

Michigan Secretary of State, Ruth Johnson.
MI SOS

It is perhaps the busiest day of the year for Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. Michigan polling locations will be open until 8 p.m. tonight.  And, it will likely be some time before we have the final calls in many of the races.  Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Ruth Johnson about the long lines at the polls, frustration over the voter verification check box, and when we should all expect to hear some results.

As many as 650 voters in Ypsilanti may have received absentee ballots in the mail without any instructions.

Francis McMullen, the Ypsilanti City Clerk, says only two voters have contacted her office so far, but she wants all voters to have what they need.  So her team is mailing instructions to everyone who received an absentee ballot.

Three days ago, U.S. District Judge Paul Borman ruled that Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson had to stop asking voters to check a box reaffirming they are a U.S. citizen before casting a ballot at their polling place during next month’s election.

His ruling was about as surprising as snow in January, and I have to confess that I have a hard time understanding where the secretary of state is coming from. This was something the governor vetoed and her own legal staff told her to keep off absentee ballots.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Romney campaign in Michigan this week

"Mitt Romney's campaign is showing Michigan some love this week. Romney's running mate Paul Ryan holds a rally at Oakland University tonight. That follows Saturday's appearance by Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in suburban Detroit. And this Friday, Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, will stop in Grand Rapids," Tracy Samilton reports.

Voter registration deadline is tomorrow

The last day to register to vote in the Nov. 6 election is tomorrow. According to Michigan Secretary of State's website.

"Voters may register by mail, at their county, city or township clerk's office, or by visiting any Secretary of State office. The mail-in form is available at www.Michigan.gov/elections. First-time voters who register by mail must vote in person in their first election, unless they hand-deliver the application to their local clerk, are 60 years old or older, are disabled or are eligible to vote under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. To check their registration status, residents may visit the Michigan Voter Information Center at www.Michigan.gov/vote. On the website, residents can view a sample ballot, find their polling location, learn about absentee voting, get information on Michigan's voter ID laws and view contact information for their local clerk."

Twenty cases of meningitis in Michigan

"At least 20 cases of meningitis have been confirmed in Michigan, including two deaths. The meningitis outbreak has been linked to a steroid produced by a specialty pharmacy in Massachusetts. The steroid has been recalled," the AP reports.

Voting booth
suttonhoo.blogspot.com

The presidential election is still a month away, but in many states, early voting is already underway.

Today, Ohio opened the polls to early voters.

It’s one of 34 states that have some kind of early voting system.

Michigan, however, is not one of those states.

Last week, I went to my local city hall. I was feeling good. It was my daughter’s 18th birthday. I helped her register to vote - civic pride for a dad.

After that, my mood darkened.

The fight over how the Republican majority in the Michigan House of Representatives counts votes has gone to the state Court of Appeals.

Democrats sued Republicans to require recorded votes on a procedural motion that determines when a new law will go into effect.

The motion to make a law effective immediately requires a two-thirds super-majority that Republicans don’t have in the House.

Michael Hodge is the attorney representing Democrats in the lawsuit.

Today is primary election day, and if you haven’t voted yet, I wish you would, even if there is only one race you care about.

Most of us won’t vote. Bill Ballenger, who has been closely watching politics in this state for half a century, predicts that less than one-fifth of Michigan’s registered voters are going to vote today.

Sadly, I don’t think he is wrong. That bothers me for a lot of reasons, one of which is that when I was twelve years old, three college students were tortured and murdered in Mississippi for trying to register people to vote.

mattileo / flickr

Every Thursday we look at Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate majority leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service.

Republicans in the Legislature got a bit of a surprise this week when Gov. Snyder vetoed three of the 14 new bills related to voting. What would those three vetoed bills have done?

I don’t know how Governor Snyder celebrated the Fourth of July yesterday, but I have a strong hunch he didn’t stop by Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s place for some barbecue.

The Governor stunned the secretary and other fellow Republicans Tuesday by vetoing three election bills. He said he feared they might be confusing.

“Voting rights are precious and we need to work especially hard to make it possible for people to vote,” he said.

user wasted time R / wikimedia commons

Playing politics with the ballot: conflicts of interest for Michigan's Board of State Canvassers

A second potential conflict of interest has appeared on the Board of State Canvassers. That’s the bipartisan state panel that approves petitions and decides whether questions will go on the statewide ballot.

In both cases, the panel members have business or employment interests in the issues put in front of them. They’re big, too, and controversial – a potential challenge to Michigan’s emergency manager law and a preemptive strike at “right-to-work” legislation.

The Michigan Republican Party State Central Committee has decided the state GOP will use a closed presidential primary next year.

That means voters will have to declare a party preference to participate. If Michigan sticks with a February 28 election date, the state GOP could lose half its delegates to the national nominating convention for meeting earlier than party rules allow.

Michigan GOP leaders say the early influence is worth the risk. Michigan Democrats plan to hold closed caucuses May 5, and will likely withdraw from the primary election ballot.

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:

K Latham / Creative Commons

Governor (race called)

  • Virg Bernero (D) 35%
  • Rick Snyder (R) 62%

Attorney General (race called)

  • David Leyton (D) 38%
  • Bill Schuette (R) 56%

Secretary of State (race called)

  • Jocelyn Benson (D) 41%
  • Ruth Johnson (R) 54%

 

U.S. Congress

  15th District (race called)

Update 11:50pm: In his victory speech Governor-elect Rick Snyder says he'll apply business principals to resolve Michigan's economic troubles, including tax cuts and smarter regulation:

Update 10:39pm: Virg Bernero talks to crowd at party

Update 10:09pm: Virg Bernero has conceded defeat. He's giving a speech now.

Update 9:30: Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says crowd needs to show Virg Bernero the "love and respect" he deserves when he comes down to make his speech.

Pages