Ballot proposals lacked integrity

Nov 27, 2012

Something needs to be done to limit the number of ballot proposals on Election Day in Michigan, and the exorbitant amount of money spent to convince voters to approve or defeat them.

Six state ballot proposals crowded the Nov. 6 ballot and they were all voted down, and rightly so — with the exception of Proposal 1, which would have allowed emergency managers to take over municipalities and school districts in very deep financial trouble.

Nearly $93 million was spent in support or opposition to these proposals.

Besides being a gigantic waste of money, there’s always the danger of a bad proposal earning approval by voters due to false and misleading information used in overboard advertising campaigns. Some of this year’s proposals actually sounded like good ideas until you really checked them out.

So, how do these proposals get on the ballot? It’s not as easy as one might think. There were originally 13 issues that attempted to get on the ballot this fall.

First, organizations or individuals have to collect 322,000 valid registered voter signatures on their petitions.

Some use paid circulators, paying a bounty per signature, to gather signatures in the required 180 days. Many question this method, arguing that the petitions should be circulated by volunteers. We also question this since many paid circulators care little about the proposals they push.

The billionaire Ambassador Bridge owner spent a couple million dollars to pay the circulators and then another $50,000 or so for legal fees, and it was a done deal to get his proposal on the ballot.

There are 24 states that allow ballot initiatives, and Michigan has one of the least restrictive lists of requirements.

It is time for Michigan to come up with some tougher guidelines when it comes to ballot proposals.

We also encourage voters to research initiatives before signing petitions. What might sound good from the mouths of the circulators — especially paid ones — might not be the real deal.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

Comments

christopher

While I agree that proposal 1 was the best of the ballot proposal, I would challenge the idea that the citizenry should NOT have a DIRECT voice in the state's decision making.

Are you saying that our elected "representatives" actually do a better (or even good job) of representing us? Now that idea is just plain silly.

dyankee

The ballot propsal system is being manipulated by individuals just like Matty Moroun / Detroit International Bridge Company and his monopoly with transit access between Canada & Michigan. This is one issue that should be decided only by our elected representatives as they had more information and background as to why this second bridge is vitally needed. Our elected representatives DID do a good job with this issue and got it right the first time and confirmed by the people with millions of unfortunate dollars in wasteful spending to defend the right call. Getting an HB on the floor limiting proposals to 3 per election cycle and "doubling" the amount of signatures needed is a good place to start in managing the State of Michigan's ballot proposal system.

christopher

You certainly have much for confidence in those jokers in Lansing than I do.

Again, I am not a fan of ballot proposals, but to think that the elites in Lansing are better informed and more able to make wise choices than us commoners is scary thought.

Maybe we can let them tell us what we should eat, read and watch as well because obviously they know better than us.

Wingmaster

Good article Trib. The manipulation is being done on many issues. Not sure how to fix but I agree there needs to be tougher guidelines as long as it does not limit voices. I also think we need straight forward writing of proposals as some seemed to be written to get voters to vote opposite of what they really want.

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