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Voting Access Amendment OK’d For Ballot, Marijuana Gets Its Language

September 11, 2018

(DELTA TWP) — A proposed constitutional amendment that would make a number of voting access changes — including ensuring straight-ticket voting in Michigan — was unanimously approved for the November ballot by the Board of State Canvassers (BSC) Thursday.

The proposal, backed by Promote the Vote, would also institute no-reason absentee voting and allow more time for voters to register. People would be allowed to register to vote by mail or in person until 15 days before an election, and after that, they may register in person before an election official with proof of residency, up to and on Election Day. 

The amendment would also enshrine the straight-ticket voting in Michigan’s Constitution, which a federal appellate court struck down Wednesday. The ruling granted the state’s requested stay on a previous court ruling that struck down a Legislature-approved ban on straight-ticket voting.

With BSC approval Thursday, the voting access amendment joins the redistricting commission amendment and the recreational marijuana legalization initiative proposal on the statewide ballot for November. 

“We are excited that eligible Michigan voters will have the opportunity to consider these common-sense reforms that will bring voting in our state into the 21st Century,” said Todd COOK, campaign director for Promote the Vote, in a statement. “We are confident that the broad coalition of supporters who successfully gathered signatures for this campaign will help us to victory on Election Day.” 

Marijuana Legalization Language Gets Tweaks Before Approval 

The marijuana proposal, backed by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA), had its official ballot language approved by the BSC Thursday. 

The BSC started with the language drafted and presented to it by state Elections Director Sally Williams. 

But at the suggestion of GOP BSC members Colleen Pero and Norm Shinkle, as well as an attorney representing opposition group Healthy and Productive Michigan, the BSC approved tweaks to the language that CRMLA attorney John Pirich said the group found “acceptable.” 

The original draft of the language said the revenue from the tax set on commercial sales of marijuana would be “earmarked” to go toward schools, roads and municipalities where marijuana businesses are located. 

Yet Troy Cumings, legal counsel for Healthy and Productive Michigan, said the description leaves out the fact that tax revenue also goes toward implementation costs and clinical trials. Cumings said the original description could give the impression all the money is going to roads and schools when that’s not the case. 

The language was redrafted to include that the revenue goes toward those additional purposes, as well as to the roads, schools and municipalities. 

Cumings, as well as Shinkle, also wanted the description to mention that CRMLA’s proposal would reduce the current criminal penalties for marijuana, with Shinkle calling it a “dramatic change” from current law. 

The redrafted and approved language now includes a line that says the proposal would “change several current violations from crimes to civil infractions.” The Secretary of State (SOS) dropped a few parts of the original language to fit within the 100-word limit, including dropping the list of types of businesses that can be licensed, like growers and processors. 

CRMLA spokesperson Josh Hovey said Thursday the approved ballot language doesn’t explain “that there are many more restriction(s) in place than what has been approved,” examples include “communities will have the authority to restrict or ban marijuana businesses; driving under the influence will remain strictly illegal; businesses will retain their right to test and ban their employees from using; and public consumption would still be strictly illegal.” 

The language approved by the BSC Thursday for the marijuana proposal is as follows: 

“A proposed initiated law to authorize and legalize possession, use and cultivation of marijuana products by individuals who are at least 21 years of age and older, and commercial sales of marijuana through state-licensed retailers 

This proposal would: 

– Allow individuals 21 and older to purchase, possess and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles, and grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal consumption. 

– Impose a 10-ounce limit for marijuana kept at residences and require amounts over 2.5 ounces be secured in locked containers. 

– Create a state licensing system for marijuana businesses and allow municipalities to ban or restrict them. 

– Permit retail sales of marijuana and edibles subject to a 10% tax, dedicated to implementation costs, clinical trials, schools, roads, and municipalities where marijuana businesses are located. 

– Change several current violations from crimes to civil infractions.” 

SOS Issues Voting Access Amendment Draft Language 

Next up on the Canvassers’ to-do list at its meeting Friday was to assign ballot designation and ballot language for Promote the Vote. 

The SOS released draft language Thursday afternoon for the voting access amendment, expected to be Proposal 18-3. Here’s what the language looks like: 

“A proposed constitutional amendment to authorize automatic and Election Day voter registration, no-reason absentee voting, and straight ticket voting 

This proposed constitutional amendment would allow a United States citizen who is qualified to vote in Michigan to: 

– Become automatically registered to vote when applying for, updating or renewing a driver’s license or state-issued personal identification card, unless the person declines. 

– Simultaneously register to vote with proof of residency and obtain a ballot during the 2-week period prior to an election, up to and including Election Day. 

– Obtain an absent voter ballot without providing a reason. 

– Cast a straight-ticket vote for all candidates of a particular political party when voting in a partisan general election.” 

Cook, campaign director for Promote the Vote, said the proposed language “completely ignores” three of the seven provisions made in the amendment, and in some of the ones listed, he said it doesn’t “fully outline what the changes are.” 

What’s Left For Canvassers To Do? 

Also on the BSC agenda Friday was a report on the petition signatures filed by Christopher Graveline, the Independent Attorney General candidate seeking to get on the ballot.

And the BSC planned to finalize the recounts commenced in the 5th, 12th and 94th House Districts on Friday.

The BSC has already taken care of Voters Not Politicians (VNP), the sponsor of the redistricting proposal, which had its language and ballot designation, Proposal 18-2, approved two weeks ago after the group asked a court to force the BSC to act.

And the minimum wage hike and paid sick leave proposals won’t be appearing on the ballot after the Legislature enacted both on Wednesday during session.


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