Voting rights proposal certified for Michigan's November ballot

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Farnaz Anaum, 3, looks at her mother, Farzana Akhter while she fills out her ballot for precinct 3 at the polling center at Hamtramck High School in Hamtramck, Mich. on Aug. 8, 2017.

Delta Township — State elections officials on Thursday added a third proposal to the Nov. 6 ballot that would expand voting rights in Michigan.

The Board of State Canvassers voted unanimously to certify signatures for a ballot initiative that would amend the Michigan Constitution to allow for no-reason absentee voting by mail, guarantee continued straight-party voting and let residents register to vote up to and on Election Day.

The approval from canvassers comes a day before the deadline for inclusion on the November ballot and roughly a week after the ballot committee Promote the Vote asked a federal judge to force state certification of the proposal.

Canvassers on Friday will consider a proposed summary for the November ballot that highlights the initiative's straight ticket voting provision, no reason absentee voting and eased voter registration rules.

Promote the Vote submitted petitions to the state July 9, but the Bureau of Elections determined there were not enough valid signatures in an initial review sample to trigger automatic recommendation for approval.

The bureau announced earlier this month it would review a larger sample of 3,300 signatures before recommending approval or denial to the Board of State Canvassers.

Elections officials found 2,901 valid signatures among those they reviewed, 55 more than the 2,846 valid signatures required to pass. The Bureau of Elections recommended the proposal’s certification.

The ballot committee will be canvassing voters and investing in television, digital and mail advertising to educate voters about the initiative, said Todd Cook, campaign director for Promote the Vote.

The summary for the proposal, which is expected to be approved Friday, will join two other proposals that legalize recreational marijuana and create an independent citizens’ redistricting commission.

“That’s one of the concerns we have obviously with a busy ballot, to make sure people flip over their ballot and complete it all the way to the bottom,” Cook said.

Canvassers also approved the 100-word summary for a ballot proposal that would legalize recreational marijuana.

The language outlines the proposal’s plan to legalize the purchase, possession and use of up to 10 ounces of marijuana. The language also outlines the proposed authorization of the sale of marijuana in municipalities that allow it and the dedication of a 10 percent tax on marijuana sales to items including implementation costs, schools, roads and municipalities.

The ballot language paints a clear picture of the basics of the proposal but does not mention additional restrictions on use such as the continued ban on public consumption, continuing laws against driving under the influence and businesses’ rights to prohibit employee use, said Josh Hovey, a spokesman for the ballot committee, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol.

“We're confident that voters will see through the opposition's scare tactics and see Proposal 1 for the responsible initiative that it is that builds on the best practices of other states that have come before us,” Hovey said in a statement.

After concerns from the board, wording was added to the proposal that clarifies the plan would change the penalties for marijuana violations from crimes to civil infractions.

“This is a dramatic change in current law and it should be reflected in the language,” Board of State Canvassers Chairman Norman Shinkle said in arguing for the additional wording.

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