Griffin Forum panelists discuss November ballot proposals


Panelist at the Ballot Forum hosted by Central Votes break down and answer questions about the three proposals on this elections ballot Tuesday, Oct. 25 in the Bovee University Center Auditorium.

When Michigan voters mark their ballots this fall, they will be asked whether the state should make three major changes to its constitution. Mount Pleasant citizens joined Central Michigan University faculty, staff, students and administration Oct. 25 to hear from advocates on both sides of each proposal.

The intentional dialogue was part of the Griffin Forum and took place at the Bovee University Center Auditorium.  

Student Rafael Garza is a member of Central Votes.

“I came here to educate myself, so I can educate others,” said Garza. 

Proposal 22-1

The first proposal comes in two parts.

First, it would take term limits in the legislature down to 12 overall instead of 14. Currently, a state lawmaker may serve up to three terms (six years) in the State House of Representatives and up to two terms (eight years) in the State Senate, bringing their total tenure to no more than 14 years, assuming the voters elect them. Under Proposal 1, a lawmaker may serve no more than 12 years, but it is up to them and the voters to decide how much of that time to spend in either chamber (up to six terms in the House or three terms in the Senate).

Second, this proposal would require annual public financial disclosure reports by legislators and other state officers.

In support of this proposal was Richard Studley, former president and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and current chairman of the Central Michigan University Board of Trustees. 

Studley supported Proposal 1 based on the value of experience gained by long-time members of the state legislature. 

“I don’t deliberately seek out people with less than six years’ experience,” said Studley, using experienced individuals in other fields as an example of competency in political roles. 

In opposition was Scott Tillman, a grassroots activist, who has been working with and training local leaders in policy for over 13 years. 

He argued that Proposal 1 would create the possibility of career politicians at the state level, because they would not be obligated to leave the legislature – especially the House – after a comparatively short time. He also raised red flags over the possibility lobbyists could have more influence by building closer relationships with long-term lawmakers.

“Legislators in states with tighter term limits tend to write tighter legislation that can’t be abused later on,” Tillman said. “Lobbyists hate term limits because it breaks up the relationships and makes their jobs difficult.”

Proposal 22-2

This proposal would amend the state constitution with several provisions regarding elections and making them more accessible. Among the controversial changes was a change to voter verification, which would allow voters to use either an official photo ID or a signed affidavit to prove their identification, and a plan to open up in-person voting by nine days prior to an election.

In favor of this proposal was Susan Smith, the vice president of the League of Women Voters in Michigan. 

“This proposal will ensure that every voice is heard and every vote is counted in every election,” said Smith, “no matter what political candidate or party or where we live.”

A focus of the proposal is the expansion of in-person voting to nine days before the election to accommodate working parents, the elderly and others who would find it difficult to get to the polls on a Tuesday, said Smith. 

Opposing this proposal was Jeff Litten, the executive director of Secure MI Vote, who said they see this proposal as an opening for more questioning of election security.  He said he specifically opposes the use of affidavits instead of voter identification at voting sites because they lack a verification process. 

“I want to be able to trust our elections for our Republic to survive for the rest of my lifetime,” said Litten. 

In response to a question from the audience, Smith pointed out that people who struggle to obtain the types of identification used at the polls are generally marginalized groups who can’t afford to obtain one. Litten countered that voter identification cards are often free. Michigan state law allows residents to get a state-issued photo ID for $10, although those cards are fere to seniors over 65 who are blind, or “those who have had driving privileges terminated due to a physical or mental disability.”

Proposal 22-3

The final amendment proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot would establish individual rights to reproductive freedom, as well as protect individuals from prosecution while exercising this right. 

In favor of this proposal was Melissa Bayne, a physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. 

“I’m voting yes on Proposal 3 because I read the entire proposal and I agree with all of it,” Bayne said. 

Bayne countered the notion that anyone with a license to practice any form of medicine can perform an abortion or terminate a pregnancy. Any medical official can provide a referral, but they are not qualified to perform the actual pregnancy termination procedures without extensive, specific and updated training and certification, Bayne said. 

Abby Jones, a recent CMU graduate and concerned voter, was the opposition on the panel. 

“It is confusing, extreme and permanent,” said Jones. 

Jones commented on the language of the proposal, saying the reference to an “individual” having access to abortion procedures means children can receive an abortion without parental consent. 

The difference, according to Bayne, is that for a child to be eligible for an abortion, the situation would also be a case of rape or incest, requiring criminal charges and the involvement of a parental figure. 

In addition to observers over the live stream, there were approximately 50 people attending the event. 

“I’m happy I came,” said CMU student Marlee Remenap, “I feel empowered right now.”

Another attendee was community member and local activist Jessical Iliff-List, who values the bipartisan nature of the event.

“I like the idea that they provided as much opposing information on the ballot,” said List. 

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