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First Speak Up Speak Out panel of the year covered Michigan’s 2018 elections and propositions


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Panelists at Speak Up, Speak Out focused on Michigan politics, voting and ballot initiatives on Sept. 26 in the Bovee University Center Auditorium.

The ballot initiatives voters will see include legalizing recreational marijuana and establishing a citizen’s committee for redistricting. The gubernatorial race will also be on the ballot this midterm election. 

The panel was hosted and organized by philosophy and religion faculty member Andrew Blom and journalism faculty member Edgar Simpson. 

The panelists were:

Kyla Stepp - Political Science & Public Administration faculty member

Jeremy Castle - Political Science & Public Administration faculty member

Clara Alderman-Wuchte - College Democrats member

Gabriel Butzke - College Republicans member

Bryce Huffman - Michigan Radio

Regardless of political affiliation, each panelist advocated for the importance of voting during midterms. 

“I am hoping that can be the last time tonight we agree on something,” Castle said. 

Castle made a case for why everyone should vote this November.

“There are all kinds of opportunities to elect public officials at every level," he said. "Why would you want to turn out? With a menu like that, why wouldn’t you?” 

The main discussion of the event was around proposal two, which would allow a citizen’s committee to draw the electoral boundaries in Michigan. The current boundaries were drawn by Republicans. Historically speaking, Blom said, political parties, regardless of affiliation, have gerrymandered the electoral map to benefit their party. 

“There is no unbiased way to draw a congressional district. A lot of what election and redistricting law is about is trying to find a standard we can agree on, and is the best we have to go with,” Castle said.

Alderman-Wuchte and Stepp both favored any sort of change to the current system. 

“The status quo is so bad, even a flawed proposal is better than this. This (proposal two) would take that out of the hands of the parties,” Stepp said.

Butzke disagreed, arguing independent citizens might not be that independent. He suggested each party choose people to sit on a committee to decide the districts. Both parties could select the same amount of people. 

Proposal one looks to legalize recreational marijuana.

The proposed law would allow Michigan residents to have up to 2.5 ounces of flower, or 15 grams of marijuana concentrate. It would also allow residents to have up to 12 plants in their home and up to 10 ounces per home. 

It would, however, still be illegal to smoke in public or while operating a vehicle. Landlords could also prevent tenants from smoking on their property. 

“I hate to be the token black guy about this one, but legalizing marijuana is a civil rights issue at this point," Huffman said. "There are millions of African Americans sitting in jail for non-violent crimes related to marijuana."

Ballot initiatives won’t be the only decision voters will face. Michigan voters will also have to choose between Democrat Gretchen Whitmer and Republican Bill Schuette for governor. 

Panelists said some of the issues these candidates would face are roads, education and the economy. 

Voting registration was covered before the panel took the stage.

Around 46 percent of CMU students voted in 2016, while only 16 percent voted in the 2014 midterm elections. 

Michiganders wishing to vote this November must register by Oct. 9. Those registering for the first time can use their home address or their Mount Pleasant address. 

Students who apply to vote for the first time by mail must vote in person. Registering in person removes this limitation, allowing citizens to vote absentee. 

More ballot and election information is available at vote411.org.

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