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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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Women’s spring soccer comes to an end this weekend
Lily GouinApril 19, 2024

Michigan Constitution needs to be rewritten

This November, Michigan voters will be asked a very interesting question on the ballot: should we throw out the old state constitution and write a new one? To many people I’ve talked to in everyday conversation, the answer seems to be a simple “I don’t care.” But this proposition affects everyone in the state on a very personal level, whether they care or not. It is not a question of some people in Lansing 500 miles away deciding the fate of the state; the proposition on the ballot puts the choice squarely into your hands.

The question of a constitutional convention –– that is, whether we should form a committee of delegates to write a new state constitution –– is important whether a person is political or not. The constitution is a body of laws our government must follow in order to operate. As such, it affects all of us daily.

Melissa Pinskey/NW

If voters decide on Nov. 4 that we should throw out the current constitution, it means starting over from scratch. It means every law within that document – everything from the rules of taxation to term limits all the way down to gay marriage and legalization of marijuana – are up for review. If Michigan voters decide they want to start over and write a new constitution, the entire body of laws under which we operate could change. Should that happen, voters would be able to elect a panel of 144 delegates, the number of delegates the last time this was done, who would then sit and review the old constitution and write a new one. Last time, in 1963, this process took about seven months. After that, the decision of whether to adopt the new constitution is again in your hands. Michigan voters will be able to decide whether we should adopt the new constitution or stick with the old one.

The current constitution requires that every 16 years the question of a constitutional convention be placed on the ballot for voters to review. The current constitution was written in 1963, and it is Michigan’s fourth constitution since it became a state in 1836.

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Several of the delegates elected the last time a new constitution was written worked for automotive companies in Detroit. Supporters of changing the constitution argue that the economic landscape has changed since 1963. We can no longer rely on Big Auto to save us.

Supporters also argue that the current constitution allows for a much larger government and much more spending than we need in the state. They point to all of the problems of the last twenty years in this state and blame the current constitution. While I don’t think that the constitution is completely to blame –– in the last ten years, I’d be more willing to point to Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop’s stubborn rivalry –– I do believe that this constitutional convention is exactly what the state needs to revitalize itself.

Clearly, business as usual isn’t working in this state. Since the middle of the 1900s, we’ve allowed Big Auto companies to basically run the state. We’ve relied on them for everything. So when they fell through and the recession hit (a recession we’ve been feeling much longer than the rest of the country,) we didn’t have much to fall back on. Granholm has been trying for years to turn the economy around by diversifying it. A new constitution could perhaps help those kinds of efforts.

Some detractors of the convention argue that the United States has had the same Constitution for 220 years and it’s been working just fine –– why throw out our constitution? Besides the obvious fallacy of comparing state and federal governments as exact comparisons, I have to say that the stability of the United States Constitution has been its vitality throughout the years. It was well written, and in the places where it went wrong, it was amended until it truly reflected the sort of laws the people of this nation and its representatives wanted to have.

Comparing the writers of the 1963 constitution to Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and Ben Franklin is a little hard for me to accept. The Constitution of 1963 did its job and that was fine for a while. But times have changed. Our constitution was not perfect in the first of 1936, it wasn’t in the third of 1908 and it isn’t the in the fourth of 1963.

Hopefully voters will make the right choice in November. Let’s at least let our elected delegates give this a shot. Let’s not forget that if the new product is less than desirable, all Michigan voters get the opportunity to make the decision to adopt it or throw it out. We owe it to the future of our state to at least see what comes out of a constitutional convention.

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