Michigan Voters Pass Two Election-Related Constitutional Amendments
In this year’s midterm election, Michigan voters passed three constitutional amendments, two of which make significant changes to the state’s election process, impacting voters, candidates, and office holders. So, what do these amendments do? Let’s examine.
Proposal 1 amends Article IV of Michigan’s Constitution to change Michigan’s current term limit provisions for state legislators and to broadly require certain financial disclosures by state elected officials.
Proposal 1 amends Michigan’s system of term limits for the Legislature. Prior to its passage, legislators were able to serve three two-year terms in the State House of Representatives and two four-year terms in the State Senate. Going forward, legislators will be able to serve a total of 12 years, irrespective of the chamber in which they serve. So, a legislator can be elected to serve six terms in the House of Representatives, three terms in the Senate, or any combination in between. . . but each member’s overall service is limited to 12 years (not 14, as under the old system). However, it might be a while before the new term limits fully apply. Under the proposal, a person elected as a state senator in 2022 can be elected to that office twice–regardless of the 12-year limit.
Michigan was just one of two states that did not require any financial disclosures by state lawmakers. As a result, Michigan frequently appears near the bottom of state rankings for transparency. To fix this issue, Proposal 1 amends the Constitution to:
- Prohibit state officials and members of the legislature from having a direct or indirect interest in any contract with the state that will cause a substantial conflict of interest.
- Require that each member of the legislature, the governor, the lieutenant governor, the secretary of state, and the attorney general file an annual financial disclosure report detailing, among other things, their personal assets, income, and liabilities.
Proposal 2 affects Michigan’s voting laws by enshrining in the state constitution various rights now held by voters. In combination with the amendments added in 2020, Michigan voters now enjoy the following rights relating to elections:
- A fundamental right to vote free of harassment, threats, and intimidation that may not be unreasonably burdened, along with a legal cause of action to enforce that right.
- The right of service members and others living overseas to have an absentee ballot sent to them at least 45 days before an election and to have their ballot counted if it is postmarked on or before, and received within six days after, election day.
- The right to vote “straight ticket” for partisan offices.
- The right to be automatically registered to vote when conducting business with the secretary of state regarding a driver’s license or personal identification card.
- The right to vote by mail, after submitting a completed voter registration application at least 15 days before an election.
- The right to register to vote by appearing in person and submitting a completed voter registration application at least 15 days before an election, or by appearing in person and submitting a completed voter registration application and proof of residency during the 14 days immediately preceding an election.
- The right to vote by showing photo ID or by signing an affidavit verifying one’s identity.
- The right to vote absentee without giving a reason during the 40 days preceding an election, either by appearing in person or by mail (including to receive a free ballot by mail and prepaid postage to submit the ballot).
- The right to have a voting dropbox in every municipality with more than 15,000 registered voters, with one dropbox for every 15,000 registered voters.
- The right to an audit of statewide election results.
Proposal 2 also clarifies the powers of the Board of State Canvassers to make clear that the voters shall determine the outcome of elections and that the Board has a ministerial, nondiscretionary duty to certify election results based only on certain enumerated criteria. It also details the process by which the Board votes, including how ties are resolved.
If you have questions about how these amendments affect your rights as a voter or your rights and duties as a candidate or office holder, please contact Keith T. Brown, or a member of our election law team.
Keith Brown is an associate with the firm’s Municipal & Public Entity practice group and is based in the Grand Rapids office. Keith also practices appellate law.View All Posts by Author ›