Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6: Know the Ballot, Know Your Rights

By David Sands

 

The 2012 election promises to be an eventful one in Detroit. Not only is it a presidential election year, but a number of state, county, and city ballot initiatives will give voters an opportunity to weigh in on how our government will function for years to come. Here’s a look at six statewide proposals which, if passed, would have a significant impact on the way Democracy works in Michigan:

Proposal 1
A Referendum on Public Act 4 of 2011 – the Emergency Manager Law
This proposal is a veto referendum on Public Act 4, a law passed last year that expands the governor’s power to step in and run local governments through specially appointed officials known as emergency managers. The act lets the governor establish a review team to assess the financial well-being of a local municipality or school board. It then allows the governor to appoint an emergency manager who has broad powers to modify or end contracts and determine spending and service levels for those local government bodies until the emergency is resolved. The state review team also has the option of working out a contract, known as a consent decree, with the local government. This proposal asks voters if they want to keep the law, which was temporarily suspended earlier this year pending the result of this referendum. Voting “yes” means that Public Act 4 stays on the books.

Proposal 2
A Proposal To Amend The State Constitution Regarding Collective Bargaining
This proposal would change the state constitution to guarantee government and private-sector employees the right to form unions and negotiate with their employers. It would also cancel out existing laws and prevent future ones from being passed that interfere with these rights. It does, however, retain certain provisions that ban government employees from striking. If passed, this proposal would also overrule laws governing hours and conditions of employment that conflict with agreements negotiated by unions. This proposal was placed on the ballot after a signature drive led by a coalition of unions including the Michigan UAW and AFL-CIO. Voting “yes” means people have the right to form unions and be represented by them and that their rights and contracts can’t be overruled by acts of the state legislature.

Proposal 3
A Proposal To Amend The State Constitution To Establish A Standard For Renewable Energy
This proposal would change the state constitution to make electric utilities use renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, biomass and hydropower, to provide at least 25% of electricity by 2025. It would also limit rate increases to one percent per year during this time, allow extensions of the deadline to prevent rate increases, make the legislature pass other laws to encourage utilities to use Michigan-made equipment and hire Michigan residents. The drive to place Proposal 3 on the ballot was initiated by a coalition of environmental groups and some labor unions. Voting “yes” would require utilities to greatly increase their use of renewable resources to generate power.

Proposal 4
A Proposal To Amend The State Constitution To Establish The Michigan Quality Home Care Council And Provide Collective Bargaining For In-Home Care Workers
This proposal would create a government entity called the Michigan Quality Home Care Council (MQHCC), allow home-care workers to bargain with it, require it to provide training for these workers, create a registry that checks their backgrounds, and provide financial help to in-home care patients. It would also allow the MQHCC to set a minimum pay rate and other terms of employment. The SEIU and other unions helped place this item on the ballot. The registry is based off an earlier council that was defunded and largely neutralized by the state legislature because it allowed SEIU to unionize in-home care workers as state employees. Voting “yes” on this would create a special registry for in-home health care work and allow workers in this field to negotiate through unions.

Proposal 5
A Proposal To Amend The State Constitution To Limit The Enactment Of New Taxes By State Government
This proposal would change the state constitution to require a two-thirds vote by the state House and Senate, or a statewide vote by registered Michigan voters to pass new taxes or raise or expand the reach of existing ones. A drive to place this proposal on the ballot was backed by TEA Party activists with substantial donations from Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun. Voting “yes” would make it extremely difficult for the state government to raise new taxes or reform existing ones.

Proposal 6
A Proposal To Amend The State Constitution Regarding Construction Of International Bridges And Tunnels
This proposal would change the state constitution to require voters to approve, in a statewide election, the construction of new international bridges and tunnels. This was put on the ballot in large part by the efforts of Maroun. Voting “yes” would prevent the state of Michigan from spending any money to build, design or promote a new international crossing that would compete with the privately-owned Ambassador Bridge.

A full, sample ballot, along with directions to your polling place, can be found at www.michigan.gov/vote and a voter guide can be obtained (for Detroit residents) by contacting the city clerk at 313-224-3260.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

In order to participate in a Michigan election a person must be a United States citizen over the age of 18 who is registered to vote in the city or township where they live.

First-time voters must have registered at least 30 days before the election. Voters are asked to bring an acceptable identification such as a driver’s license or state I.D. card. Alternatively, voters have the option to sign a legal document proving their identity that will allow them to receive a ballot. Identity cards may be swiped into a computer by poll workers. Voter registration cards are not needed to vote.

The state prohibits the wearing of election-related clothing and the display of election-related materials like buttons and pamphlets. Cameras are not allowed except by credentialed members of the news media.

Convicted felons who have been released from prison retain their right to vote.

Polls will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voters must vote at their assigned polling place, which may have changed since the last election due to redistricting. You can look up your polling place online at http://www.michigan.gov/vote.

Election officials may try and get voters to sign a box affirming U.S. citizenship. According to law, voters have the right to insist on getting a ballot without signing the box. In the event of voter intimidation of harassment, notify a poll worker, a poll watcher, local clerk or call one of the following:

Election Protection Hotline: 866-OUR-VOTE
Michigan Bureau of Elections: 517-373-2540
U.S. Department of Justice: 800-253-3931
ACLU Voting Rights Project: 877-523-2792
ACLU of Michigan: 313-578-6800

Complaints can be made with the person in charge of a polling place, a local clerk or the Michigan Bureau of Elections.

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