Michigan voters reject constitutional convention

By Tim Martin

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- Michigan voters on Tuesday decided against calling a convention to rewrite the state constitution, opting instead to leave the 1963 version in place, while approving a constitutional amendment aimed at keeping crooked public officials out of office for at least two decades.

Proposal 1 was rejected by voters 67 percent to 33 percent with 94 percent of precincts counted, according to unofficial returns tabulated by The Associated Press. The constitutional convention proposal is automatically put on the ballot every 16 years and similar proposals failed in 1978 and 1994.

A coalition that includes the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan State AFL-CIO and the Michigan Health and Hospital Association opposed the measure. So did the official platforms of the Michigan Republican and Democratic parties.

Critics estimated that a convention could cost the cash-strapped state $45 million and would effectively handcuff incoming governor Rick Snyder and the new state Legislature for two years while the new constitution was written.

They also argued voters can and do amend the existing constitution. The current constitution has been amended more than 30 times, according to the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

Among the most recent changes agreed to by voters were loosening of restrictions on embryonic stem cell research in 2008, banning racial preferences in public university admissions and government hiring in 2006 and setting the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman in 2004.

Voters approved Proposal 2 by a 75 percent to 25 percent margin with 93 percent of precincts reporting. The constitutional amendment bans public officials convicted of felonies violating the public trust from holding for 20 years after a conviction.

The measure was placed on the ballot after high-profile scandals in Detroit involving then-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and former city councilwoman Monica Conyers.

It bans anyone from being elected or appointed to state or local elective office if they've been convicted of certain felonies connected to their government jobs in the previous 20 years. Offenders also will be banned from holding a public job that deals with control of public assets or public policy.

Published: Thu, Nov 4, 2010