Frustrated with eight years of Republican party rule in Michigan, when issues like wage growth, gerrymandering of districts, and voter access were continually ignored by the Republican politicians who were more concerned with appeasing corporate donors and entrenching their own power, the voters of Michigan took action and gathered enough signatures to get multiple referendums on this year’s November ballot.
Proposal 1 was a ballot referendum to legalize recreational marijuana. Proposal 1 was approved by Michigan voters by a 12 point margin.
Proposal 2 was a ballot referendum to create an independent redistricting commission. Proposal 2 was approved by Michigan voters by a 22 point margin.
Proposal 3 was a ballot referendum to expand voting rights by creating automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and expanding absentee ballots. Proposal 3 was approved by Michigan voters by a 34 point margin.
Then, there were two ballot referendums that received enough signatures, but were not included on the November ballot because the Republican majority legislature decided to pass them in session. They did this so that the Republican majority legislature could then come back and modify the laws with a simple majority instead of the 3/4s majority it would take to modify a voter approved referendum. These ballot referendums were an increase in the state’s minimum wage and a requirement for employers to provide paid sick leave.
The Michigan GOP opposed all of these referendums.
Recreational marijuana would provide competition for drugs marketed by pharmaceutical companies, and a higher minimum wage and paid sick leave would increase corporate expenses. Of course, the Michigan GOP didn’t care that all three would benefit actual people. They were concerned about their effects on corporate profits instead.
An independent redistricting commission would prevent the GOP from gerrymandering districts. Automatic voter registration, same-day registration, and expanded absentee voting would result in more people voting. So, the GOP also did not like these referendums because it could damage the GOP’s ability to cheat to maintain their power through gerrymandering and voter suppression. Never mind that we live in a democracy.
However, the voters approved of all of them, so the GOP will just need to abide by the voters’ wishes, right? That’s not how the GOP rolls, apparently.
Regarding the increases to the minimum wage and the paid sick leave requirement, the Michigan GOP already took action to weaken those, using their simple majority in a lame duck legislative session, before the Republican Governor is replaced by the newly elected Democrat:
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday signed controversial bills to weaken minimum wage and paid sick leave initiatives that had been headed toward the Nov. 6 ballot before intervention by the Republican-led Legislature.
Democratic minorities in the state House and Senate were unable to stop the GOP maneuver, which has no direct precedent and is likely to spur lawsuits.
Under the revised law, Michigan’s minimum wage will increase from $9.25 to $12.05 per hour by 2030, slowing the march to $12 by 2022 called for in the initiative. The minimum wage for tipped restaurant workers will rise to $4.58 by 2030 instead of $12 by 2024.
The paid sick leave law will exempt more than 160,000 small businesses that collectively employ more than 1 million workers from a mandate that would have otherwise applied to every company in the state.
“I look at legislation presented to me through a policy lens — is it the right policy for the state of Michigan and Michiganders as a whole? That’s what I did with these bills and have now signed them into law,” Snyder said in a statement. “I looked at what the potential impacts and benefits of the changes would be and decided that signing these bills was the appropriate action.”
As a result, the minimum wage will not increase to $12 an hour by 2022, as it would if the voters had been allowed to approve, and will instead only increase to $12 an hour in 2030, 8 years longer than the original proposal.
And now, Michigan Republicans have sent another bill to the lame duck Governor’s desk: a bill to weaken the voter registration referendum that was approved by voters by a 34 point margin:
The Republican-controlled state House on Thursday night approved proposed laws that critics say will undermine the voting access expansion approved by voters in November.
The implementation bill received no support from Democrats in the estate House or Senate, and the next go for SB 1238-1242 is Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk for a signature or veto. Some of the more controversial parts of the bills that passed the Senate were left out of the bills that the House approved.
Among current points of conflict between Proposal 3 and the GOP-approved implementation legislation is a rule that would require those who want to register on Election Day to go to the city clerk’s office to register. It can be far more difficult for low-income voters in larger cities to get to a clerk’s office than it is for them to go to a polling station that’s near their home, or a satellite office. Dolente notes that some clerk’s offices aren’t set up to handle an Election Day registration.
Dolente also says Proposal 3 gave local clerks the authority to add extra locations and hours to handle absentee voting. GOP changes strip that authority and require clerks to seek approval from a city council or township board.
Democrats called the changes “voter suppression tactics.”
The Michigan GOP is making it clear that they don’t just oppose Democratic politicians, they oppose democracy.