MSU Extension brings ballot forum to NMU

MSU+Extension+brings+ballot+forum+to+NMU

Kelsii Kyto

NMU is continuing to educate the community about three Michigan ballot proposals through university events held by different groups around the state of Michigan. On Tuesday, Oct. 24, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension hosted a ballot propsal forum with three different speakers for each of the proposals.

The event was held at room 109 in the LRC–NMU’s distance learning classroom. Apart from Marquette, there were four other sites participating in the forum: Lansing, Oakland County, Harbor Springs and Roscommon.

“I thought the program went really well,” Brian Wibby, MSU extension educator and host at the NMU site said. “There were many excellent questions put forward by participants at all the sites, and I had a sense that the program helped pretty much everyone learn more about the details of each of the 3 proposals.”

The speakers were all unbiased, giving the audience a well-rounded view of the pros and cons of each proposal.

For Proposal 1, Eric Walcott of the MSU Extension presented information about the legalization of marijuana. Walcott compared the amount of marijuana citizens can grow and possess to other states with the law already in place, and Michigan’s provisions would allow a larger amount in comparison to Colorado or Washington. Michigan’s provision offered a lesser excise tax than Washington, which was 10 percent compared to 37 percent respectively. Walcott concluded that there was a positive economic impact in passing the law, but he also adressed the cons such as impaired driving and increased addiction risk for other drugs among users.

“The biggest question in legalizing recreational marijuana is whether the proceed benefits of marijuana use are worth the cost and risks associated with it,” Walcott said.

For Proposal 2, Jordan Newton of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan presented pros and cons of redistricting. First, he began with the history of the Michigan constitution, and then began giving information about the proposal itself.

Due to changes in the Michigan constitution, there were less requirements in conducting
a redistricting process. Some believe this brought on partisan gerrymandering, Walcott said, where the use of redistricting benefits one party over another. Having parties negotiate amongst eachother was also problematic, Newton added.

“When Republicans and Democrats get in a room together, it’s sometimes hard to get them to agree on things. With something as important as the redistricting process, it can be really difficult,” Newton said.

Newton adressed the benefits and costs of the proposal, noting that the new redistricting committee would cost more due to its members’ salaries, and it would be more time consuming, given that they would have to have 10 meetings before being able to create the maps. He also noted that it would promote transparency and openness, and would prevent the aforementioned gerrymandering.

For Proposal 3, Lindsay VanHulle of Bridge Magazine spoke about voting rights.

The proposal would make it easier for people to vote for a multitude of reasons, she said.

“Some of these things, Michigan already does,” VanHulle said.

The proposal would allow no-reason absentee voting, ensure military personel and Michigan residents overseas would get their ballots with enough time to vote and return the ballot, preserve straight-ticket voting, where checking one box would elect all the candidates in a certain party; and it would allow voter registration up to and on election day.

“It’s main purpose is that it would enshrine these voting access rights into the constitution,” VanHulle said.

Proponents said it would make it easier for voters, while opponents say the state’s framework is not for public policy, VanHulle said.
“Is the constitution really the right place to put that?” VanHulle said.

After each presentation, panelists offered one question for each site and each audience collaborated to come up with their best question to ask the panelists. Additional time at the end of all the presentations offered the opportunity for additional questions.
Voting is a powerful way that citizens can voice their opinion on what type of community, state, country and world they want to live in, Wibby said.

“Voting is a critical way to ensure that your voice is included in the decision making process that affects your own life, and the lives of people you care about,” he added.

Providing Michigan residents with unbiased, factual information is why Wibby and the other expert panelists put on events like this, he said.

“In a time when it seems like there is a lot of biased and misleading information out there, it is really satisfying to contribute to an effort like this that helps people make informed decisions on important issues that will impact our state,” Wibby said.