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POLL: Voters Go to Polls Tuesday; Too Many Election Dates, or No?

Three polling dates in six months raise question of whether there's a better way.

Ready for a half-year of serial balloting?

Voters will elect municipal leaders and consider school millages in a number of Southeast Michigan districts Tuesday, three months before Aug. 7 statewide primaries to nominate candidates for Congress, the legislature, courts and county offices. Those seats get filled Nov. 6.

Springtime votes are needlessly costly and inconvenient, critics say,  particularly now that a 2011 state law moves all school board elections to the first Tuesday in November of even-numbered years – coinciding with the selection of a president or governor.

That move is intended to reduce "the number of election dates so as to provide more consistency and predictability for potential voters," state Joan Hunault of the state House Fiscal Agency writes in a Legislative Analysis of bills Gov. Rick Snyder signed last November.

Yet school boards, city commissions and township boards still can hold votes on the first Tuesday of May in any year.

Those doing so this spring include Bloomfield Hills (two commission seats, $58.6-million ), New Baltimore and Chesterfield Township ( for ), Brighton Area Schools (), Hartland Consolidated Schools () and Fenton Schools (). 

By contrast, Dearborn and 108 other public school districts (out of 550 in Michigan) submit millage proposals in November to piggyback with the general election. Now that education boards can't be elected in spring, other votes may be the next consolidation target.

Arguments from each side follow.

Advocates of fewer elections say

  • Multiple voting dates reduces turnout.
  • Combined votes are cost-effective.   
  • Voters are more attentive in fall.

Defenders of current setup say

  • Local-only ballots draw informed voters focused on issues.
  • School and local issues deserve separate, close scrutiny.
  • Important choices get buried at end of long ballots.
Mark Kapel May 17, 2012 at 10:24 PM
The City of Bloomfield Hills has an annual May election. Commission Candidates are elected on an annual basis with 2 elected in an odd year and three elected in an even year.Switching to an every other year cycle to piggyback on national elections would mean four year terms. The Governor's mandate for School Board elections has created longer terms for Board Members. Some are as long a six years. Letting the locals decide is offiically called "Home Rule". Chartered Cities and Townships by virtue of theior Charter may decide for themselves. May has a number of advatages over Novembe. Some of which have been discussed. Two others include.. 1) Daytime voting. In November those who vote before or after work would vote in darkness. Look at the community auto accident statstics for 7am-8am and 5pm-8pm in May versus November. 2) Cost for canditates. The State allows $1,000 with very little paper work or filing. While there is no spending limit spending more than $1,000 requires detailed documentation and filing. To most people $1000 is still alot of money. In the last City election four candidates filed for the under $1000 amount. One chose to spend $2000. In November either of those dollar amounts would with the glut of candidates be chump change. Running for office should be affordable for all. In a November election Incumbents with "name recognition" would be the overwhelming favorites to serve the expanded terms. The voter's ability to make changes would be dilluted.

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