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PAINTER: This year’s midterm election an important one

• Oct 9, 2018 at 3:00 PM

Voting in a midterm election has been historically lower than voting in a presidential election — as much as 20 percent lower.

Typically, more is at stake during a presidential election, but this year’s midterm election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, is one that could produce a much higher turnout than usual, especially in Michigan. There is a lot at stake.

Much of the nation will be riveted on contested congressional races between Democrats and Republicans that will determine the make-up of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.

While Michigan voters will also decide who goes to Congress, they will also decide who is going to be our next governor, as well as the fate of three important ballot proposals. This is a very important election for Michigan voters.

The proposal that is generating the most attention is the legalization of recreational marijuana. Local governmental units, including the Grand Haven City Council, have expressed opposition to the proposal that will legalize possession, use and cultivation of marijuana products by individuals who are at least 21 and older, and commercial sales of marijuana through state-licensed retailers. If approved, Michigan would become the 10th state to approve legalization of marijuana.

Democratic candidate Gretchen Whitmer and Libertarian candidate Bill Gelineau favor the proposal, while Republican candidate Bill Schuette is opposed.

Another important ballot proposal that is generating much discussion asks voters to approve establishing an independent citizen redistricting commission. If approved, this amendment would transfer the authority to draw congressional and state Legislature district lines from the Legislature and governor to the independent commission, thus putting an end to gerrymandering.

I’m not going to tell you how to vote on those two controversial proposals, as those days of endorsing candidates or ballot proposals are past me after my long journalism career. But I am sure there will be a number of publications offering their opinions, including suggesting how you should vote.

However, the third proposal on the ballot is a no-brainer to me. The Voting Rights Initiative (Promote the Vote) opens up the voting process in Michigan. Under the proposal, a U.S. citizen could be automatically registered to vote when applying for or renewing a driver’s license. It would also allow citizens to register to vote as late as on election day. Other features of the proposal would allow voting by absentee ballot without a reason, ensures military personnel and overseas voters get their ballots in time for their votes to count, and it would give voters the option to vote straight party.

According to an article in Click on Detroit, Michigan is one of only 14 states with a 30-day voter registration deadline. In his article, Ken Haddad wrote that made sense decades ago, but not now as citizens have become more mobile. “By reducing barriers to voting and making our elections more secure, our democracy will better serve all Americans,” Haddad wrote.

It does make sense to make it easier for citizens to vote. In the last presidential election only, 53 percent of registered voters in the United States cast ballots, one of the lowest turnouts in years. It should be noted that there was a 73 percent turnout in Ottawa County.

Still, more should be done to make it easier for citizens to register to vote and to be able to cast ballots in privacy.

I know that most of us make a concerted effort to get to the polls. I always look forward to it. But there may be extenuating circumstances that makes voting difficult for some.

I repeat — this is an important election. I encourage voters to thoroughly study the candidates and the issues. Sample ballots for your voting area can be found on the Ottawa County website.

I encourage everyone to get out and vote Nov. 6. Yes, your vote does count.

See you at the polls.

— By Len Painter, Tribune community columnist

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