Mending amendments and reforming reforms

On Nov. 2 voters will not only be choosing who wins the gubernatorial race but they will also be deciding whether or not a constitutional convention should convene to amend the Michigan Constitution.

Michigan has adopted four constitutions, the latest in 1963. The provision of placing a vote for a constitutional convention on the ballot every 16 years is part of the 1963 constitution. Michigan is one of roughly a dozen states to have a revision provision regarding state constitutions.

It wasn’t until I took a class on state and local government that I learned about this provision to the constitution.

In the 1994 election when the question was placed on the ballot, Michigan residents voted almost 3 to 1 against a constitutional convention.

A simple majority of electors is needed to decide whether or not the constitutional convention should take place.

Because this vote is going to be very critical, as November draws nearer I have begun examining both pros and cons as to whether a constitutional convention should be held.

My views were based on what I’ve learned from class, a lecture I attended at the Michigan Local Government Management Association Conference last week, and what I’ve concluded from examining the existing constitution.

Whether or not a constitutional convention is good or bad for Michigan and our constitution, voters are going to have to start weighing all the factors in order to cast an educated vote.


  • The existing Michigan Constitution is nearly 50 years old. Although much of the document is not time period sensitive, there are certainly many current issues that should be addressed.
  • Some issues relate to same sex marriage, medical drug legalization, a change from a flat to graduated income tax, a repeal of the prohibition of the death penalty, and much more.
  • No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, these issues are only some of the hot topics that should be addressed.
  • There are a few outdated provisions in the current constitution. One of which is in Article I, Section XI which states that the voting age is 21.
  • Although the U.S. Constitution overrides this stipulation, it would only be logical to amend our state constitution to reflect the U.S. Constitution.
  • Other issues in the Michigan Constitution that conflict with the U.S. Constitution include requiring property ownership for certain votes in Article II, Section VI, and legislative appointments throughout Article IV.
  • The rules that govern the constitutional convention need to be self-revising. One issue of concern is that someone need not be an elector or citizen to become a convention delegate, a legislator may be a delegate and this may fall under the Incompatible Offices Act, and the compensation for the convention needs to be revised.


  • The cost. Projections show that the cost of the convention will be in the neighborhood of around $45 million. The projections are taken from the cost of the last convention while factoring in costs of inflation and current monetary values.
  • In a state wracked with financial burdens, can Michigan afford to hold a constitutional convention?
  • The mere fact that the laws regarding a constitutional convention are rather vague and need revision themselves may also be a deterrent for holding the convention.