Capitol News

September 4, 2016

The Michigan Legislature is returning September 7 for 9 session days before the November 8 election.

Statewide Candidates Chosen

The Michigan Republican and Democratic Party Conventions were held August 27 and chose their candidates for the statewide offices on the ballot for November 8.  There is no statewide race for U.S. Senate or Governor this year.  There are no State Senator races this year. All State House districts have elections.  The Green Party and Libertarian Party have also selected some candidates for statewide and local races.

Michigan Supreme Court - 4 yr termWayne Circuit Court Judge Frank SYZMANSKIJustice David VIVIANO
Michigan Supreme Court – 2 yr termWayne Circuit Court Judge Deborah THOMASJustice Joan LARSEN
State Board of EducationIsmael AhmedFormer Rep. Tom McMILLIN
 Current State Board President John AUSTINWashtenaw Community College nursing instructor Nicolette SNYDER
Univ. of Michigan Board of RegentsLaurence DIETCH incumbentRon WEISER
 Denise ILITCH incumbentCarl MEYERS
Michigan State University Board of TrusteesDiane BYRUM incumbentDan KELLY
 Diann WOODARD incumbentWilliam DEARY
Wayne State University Board of GovernorsFormer AFL-CIO president Mark GAFFNEYNurse practitioner WSU instructor Kim SHMINA
 Downtown campus vice president for Wayne County Community College - Yvette ANDERSONPlastic surgeon Michael BUSUITO
Straight-Ticket Voting Update

Michigan is one of 10 states that provide an opportunity to vote for the entire slate of a party’s candidates through one place on the ballot. It has been law in Michigan since the early 1890s. Twice the Legislature has abolished straight-ticket voting and twice the voters have restored it through a referendum ballot initiative. It is used by Democratic voters more than Republican voters. In December 2015 the Republicans in the Legislature abolished it and added a small appropriation to the bill, thus making it referendum-proof under Michigan’s Constitution.

Challenge — The A. Philip Randolph Institute challenged the new law and successfully obtained a preliminary injunction against PA 268 of 2015, the law ending straight-ticket voting, from Federal District Judge Gershwin Drain based on the concern that banning straight-ticket voting could unconstitutionally affect voting by minorities in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act and lead to longer voting lines for everyone.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed an emergency motion on July 29 asking Judge Drain to stay the injunction while he appealed the case. The motion was denied and Schuette appealed to the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, where a 3-judge panel denied the motion.

Court of Appeals — Schuette then filed a motion asking the entire 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse Judge Drain and the 3-judge appellate panel.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on September 1 refused to hold a hearing en banc on the request for a stay of Michigan’s straight-ticket voting ban.

USSC Appeal — On September 2, Schuette filed an emergency appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, saying the state’s electoral and voting process could face irreparable harm if straight-ticket voting is allowed to continue for the November election. Since the Secretary of State needs the final language for the ballot by September 9, Schuette requested a decision by Thursday, September 8.

Confusion — The whole public debate and discussion of straight-ticket voting apparently confused a number of voters at the August 2 primary. Even though the ballot clearly said choose a party and vote only for candidates in that party, an estimated 5 percent of voters voted in parts of the Republican and Democratic ballots, thus discounting all of their votes in partisan races.

Election reports in those counties that broke out crossover data found 33 to 117 percent increases in crossover voting. Election officials believe the straight ticket voting debate is, in part, to blame.

For those voters who cast a crossover ballot in person, the voting machine kicked the ballot back and gave the voter another try. However, if the voter was in a hurry or didn’t want to go through the hassle of doing it again, the machine could be overridden so that only the voters’ picks in non-partisan races and ballot proposals counted.

If a voter submitted a crossover ballot absentee, election workers had no choice but to discount the partisan races.

Presidential Politics

Debate Schedule — Presidential debates have been scheduled for September 26, October 9, and October 19. The Vice Presidential debate will be October 4. All debates will air from 9 to 10:30 p.m. ET on C-SPAN, ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, as well as all cable news channels including CNN, Fox News and MSNBC among others.

Debate Formats — The first and third debates will be divided into six time segments of approximately 15 minutes each on major topics to be selected by the moderators (Lester Holt of NBC Nightly News and Chris Wallace of Fox News) that will be announced at least one week before the debate. The moderator will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. Candidates will then have an opportunity to respond to each other. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic.

The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which half of the questions will be posed directly by citizen participants and the other half will be posed by moderators Martha Radditz of ABC News and Anderson Cooper of CNN based on topics of broad public interest as reflected in social media and other sources. The candidates will have two minutes to respond and there will be an additional minute for the moderators to facilitate further discussion. The town meeting participants will be uncommitted voters selected by the Gallup Organization.

VP Debate — The Vice Presidential debate will be divided into nine time segments of approximately 10 minutes each. The moderator Elaine Quijano of CBS News will ask an opening question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic.

Battleground State — Michigan continues to be considered a swing state and presidential candidates or their surrogates are visiting frequently. Presidential TV ads are appearing sponsored by both the candidates and independent committees not beholden to the candidates.

USA Today Poll — A strange phenomena appeared once again in a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll which found that three out of every 10 voters for Democrat Hillary Clinton say “they are mostly voting against Republican Donald Trump” while almost four in 10 are voting for Trump mostly because they are against Clinton. These reflect the high negatives that both candidates are experiencing at this time.

The same poll found Trump has 4 percent of the Black vote and 25 percent of the Hispanic vote. He leads Clinton 49 to 41 percent with white voters.

Clinton leads female voters 54 to 38 percent while Trump has 44 percent of male voters and Clinton has 43 percent of male voters, which is a statistical dead-heat.

Clinton is leading Trump 48 to 41 percent with Libertarian contender Gary Johnson at 9 percent and the Green Party candidate Jill Stein at 4 percent.  The margin of error is plus or minus three and the data was gathered between August 24-29.

Reuters Poll — It takes 270 electoral college votes to win the Presidency, and a recent Reuters national poll has Clinton with 295 electoral college votes to Trump’s 171 with the remaining 72 votes in states that are too close to call, Michigan among them. It gives Clinton a 95 Percent chance of winning. But the Reuters poll eliminated the “Neither/other” option, which could skew the results according to some other pollsters.


Legal Costs — Gov. Rick Snyder informed the State Administrative Board on August 30 that he was increasing the spending caps on his legal contracts for defending himself and the state from lawsuits about the Flint water contamination. Snyder’s Flint legal bill will increase by $2.2 million to $3.4 million. Legal representation for several past and present Department of Environmental Quality employees connected with Flint will increase to $4.5 million. The Governor has the authority to hire and amend his own contracts without the SAB’s approval.

Meanwhile, it was reported by The Detroit News that Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office has paid out more than $2 million on the Flint water investigation in the first six months.

Water improving — The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality said on August 30 that the most recent round of tests in Flint show a 90th percentile value that is in compliance with the 15 parts per billion (PPB) lead action level for the fourth consecutive time. Earlier in August, Dr. Marc Edwards said it was “now possible” that Flint’s water was meeting the action level on the federal Lead and Copper Rule.

Snyder – Schuette Spat — Attorney General Bill Schuette sought and gained a protective order regarding information related to his criminal investigations of DEQ and DHHS employee misconduct regarding the poisoning of Flint water. Governor Snyder’s office is challenging that order in court because it prevents DHHS employees from collecting data about public health matters such as lead poisoning or legionella in Genesee County. Schuette’s brief says “. . . it would be highly inappropriate to give (DHHS) access to all the information involved in the investigation into (DHHS’) employees, under the guise of trying to protect public health.” Snyder thinks it puts public health at risk to bar DHHS from access to the routine data.

Editor’s note: Mary Pollock is the Lansing SERA Chapter and SERA Council’s Legislative Representative. She may be contacted at 1200 Prescott Drive, East Lansing, MI 48823-2446; Phone 517-351-7292; E-mail

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