On primary day, Michiganders will also vote on 245 local ballot proposals | Michigan Radio
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On primary day, Michiganders will also vote on 245 local ballot proposals

Mar 5, 2020

Michiganders will head to the polls on March 10. Predictably the presidential primaries are getting all kinds of attention, but across the state, residents will also vote on 245 local ballot proposals.

Jonathan Oosting is the Michigan politics reporter for Bridge Magazine, and recently wrote about what else is on ballots around the state.

He told Michigan Radio Morning Edition host Doug Tribou that at least 220 of those ballot measures ask voters to either raise or continue taxes or assessments for services including road repairs, public safety, and school building maintenance. 

Here are some key points from the interview.

Politically strategic timing

"[Municipalities] chose this election thinking they would probably have the best chance of success or have another opportunity to try again if it's not approved. And that's the case for a lot of these ballot proposals around the state," Oosting said. "Chances are turnout is going to be significantly higher in the Democratic primary. ... A lot of ballot-measure experts will tell you Democratic voters are usually more sympathetic to tax questions, so putting these proposals on the ballot increases the likelihood that they're going to be approved on March 10th."

Financial factors

"Locals almost always try and piggyback on statewide elections because for a statewide election, the state pays the tab," Oosting said. "If the locals wanted to put a measure on the ballot say, next year, in an odd numbered year, they'd have to pay to do so themselves."

Opponents of the practice argue that a tax question that applies to the entire population of a local community should be on a ballot with high turnout.

Pushback against local measures on primary ballots

"There is a trio of Republican legislators who, in 2017, proposed a bill that would have limited most local tax questions to the November general election ballot. Their argument at the time, and to this day, is that a tax question that applies to the entire population of a local community should be put on a ballot where there's going to be high turnout."

Nearly half of all Michigan residents could be affected by tax measures. 

"Three of the state's largest counties Oakland, Wayne, and McComb will be deciding a Detroit Institute of Arts millage renewal," Oosting said. "And of course, they just have a ton of population in that region."

You don't have to pick a presidential candidate

"Folks can get a nonpartisan ballot if they want to vote on local ballot measures, but they don't care to participate in the presidential primary. Usually very few people take advantage of that, but it is out there."