89.1 WEMU

New Michigan Elections Law In Need Of Clarification

Jan 7, 2016

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Governor Rick Snyder has signed a controversial elections bill, but he has called for a fix to clear up some confusion in the new law. 


The new law puts limits on local officials’ ability to campaign for millages and other local ballot questions in the two months before an election.  Local officials say it’s basically an effort to silence them.  “I am gagged,” says Ingham County Commissioner Rebecca Bahar-Cook.  “I can no longer talk about this stuff 60 days out. I’m the one who has the information. I’m the one who put it on the ballot.  I know why it’s important.  Let me tell people.”  She says it’s an effort to by anti-tax conservatives to shift the balance in local elections so voters are more likely to reject millage requests.

Governor Snyder says that’s not the intent of the law.  He called on the Legislature to quickly adopt a new bill to make that clear:

“I understand there is confusion about how the bill impacts the use of public resources to disseminate factual information prior to an election. This provision needs to be clarified and I am working with my partners in the Legislature on a follow-up bill to address these concerns.”

The bill was 56 pages long and rolled out the final night of the Legislature’s 2016 session.  Even some Republican legislators who voted for it say they weren’t aware of everything in it.

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— Rick Pluta is the Managing Editor and Reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org