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Politics & Government

What's the expected voter turnout for Proposal 1?

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A week from today we’ll know the results of Proposal 1, the ballot measure that changes how fuel is taxed in Michigan to fund road repairs. It also increases the sales tax from 6% to 7%. Some of the extra revenue would go to schools.

It’s a controversial measure. There are vocal supporters and vocal opponents, but what will that actually mean in terms of voter turnout?

“Well, it’s hard to call this election, because there aren’t any really good precedents for it,” said Mark Grebner, President of Practical Political Consulting.

Grebner said the last state-wide election held at an unusual time of year, with only one proposal on the ballot, was 20 years ago when the state voted on Proposal A.

“And the world has changed quite a bit since then,” he said. “And this isn’t exactly like Proposal A, to put it mildly.”

He said most believe the turnout for this election will be lower than the 2.4 million voters the state saw at the polls 20 years ago for Proposal A.

Some believe fewer than one million people will turn up, though Grebner disagrees.

His predictions come from absentee ballot returns. He predicts around 450,000 people across the state will return their absentee ballots. Based on that number, he said around 1.5 million total statewide votes can be expected.

For reference, 3 million people voted in the recent gubernatorial elections in Michigan while around 5 million people typically cast their votes in presidential elections.

Another idea factors into Grebner’s forecast for Proposal 1 voter turnout.

“I have a theory that everybody understands this well enough to have an opinion on it, and that there are very few people who are at all plugged in who haven’t taken a position on it, at least in their own minds,” he said. “And that’s the kind of thing that will get them to go to the polls because, well this is small enough to actually wrestle with.”

Others, however, have called Proposal 1 complicated and harder to understand.

Still, Grebner thinks this proposal is clear in content as compared to former proposals.

As for proponents of this bill, Grebner’s predictions are not favorable.

“This proposal, if it were currently in a hospital bed, ought to be thinking about hospice,” he said. “So I don’t think there are any good signs or bad signs, I guess it’s important that the proposal be comfortable in its final days, and I hope it is.”

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