News Story

Michigan Will Have No Ballot Questions This Year

Voters have decided on many in recent elections

There will be no statewide questions on Michigan’s ballot when voters head to the polls Nov. 8. An analysis of Michigan history found that 1960 — 56 years ago — was the last presidential election year in which there wasn’t also a public vote on an initiative or referendum.

The Bureau of Elections, part of the Michigan Secretary of State, confirmed to Michigan Capitol Confidential that no ballot measures made it to the fall ballot. Ten initiative petitions were filed with the Secretary of State, according to Ballotpedia

Three initiatives that didn’t make the ballot would have legalized recreational marijuana use. An initiative to ban hydraulic fracturing (often dubbed “fracking”) did not receive enough signatures to make the ballot. An initiative that would have raised corporate income taxes in the state statute also did not make the ballot. 

Since 1996, 47 percent of ballot questions — 18 of 38 — have been approved by Michigan voters, while 53 percent — 20 of 38 — have been rejected, Ballotpedia notes.

Michigan citizens can place proposals on the ballot by collecting signatures to initiate a new state statute, adopt or revise constitutional amendments, or force a referendum on a newly enacted law.

Signature requirements for ballot proposals are set in the Michigan Constitution and based on the number of citizens who voted in the last gubernatorial election.

For referendums, opponents of a new law must gather signatures equal to 5 percent of the number of votes cast in the last election for governor. To initiate a new statute, supporters need signatures equal to 8 percent of that vote, and changing the constitution requires 10 percent.

Leon Drolet, chairman of Michigan Taxpayer Alliance and a former state representative from Macomb County, says conclusions can’t really be drawn from the lack of statewide ballot questions in 2016. 

“Getting an issue on the statewide is complicated and expensive,” he said. “It takes either substantial legislative consensus in Lansing or well organized and funded petition initiatives.” 

“Frankly, I'm surprised that this is the first year without a ballot question in such a long time. I would have guessed that there would be many years where the challenges to getting a question on the ballot haven't been met,” Drolet added.