TUESDAY, Nov. 14 — The election date to select the nine members of Lansing’s Charter Revision Commission has been set for May 7 primary next year, City Clerk Chris Swope said today.
Candidates will have until 4 p.m. Jan. 23 to file with his office, Swope said. The filing fee is $100, Swope said, but candidates can also collect 400 valid signatures.
The nine who are selected will serve on the first commission to review the City Charter since it was created in 1978. As required by law, voters in last Tuesday’s General Election were asked if they wanted the city to undertake the general revision process. The ballot measure carried, 51.6% to 48.4%.
Commissioners will be paid on a per diem basis in an amount to be set by the City Council, Swope said.
The election date was picked after Swope and City Attorney James Smiertka reviewed conflicting requirements between the Home Rule City Act and Michigan election law. The former establishes that a charter review commission will be elected within 60 days of the ballot proposal’s passage, but Michigan election law only allows for elections in May, August and November.
“The exception for that is the presidential election year, and the date of the presidential primary is another available date,” Swope said, referring to next year’s presidential primary date in Michigan, which is Feb. 27. “However, the date has been in question because the legislature did not give immediate effect to the bill changing the date.” In other words, Swope explained, although it would be possible to include the Charter Revision Commission candidates on the presidential primary ballot, this would have required all candidates to have filed their paperwork by 4 p.m. today.
“It just seems like an impossible deadline for us to have candidates filed,” Swope said. “In trying to tie those together, it seemed that we should be using the next available date that is possible to hold the election, which is May 7,” Swope said at last night’s City Council meeting.
Council member Brian Jackson asked if the election could be pushed off until August since May elections typically elicit the lowest turnout, but Swope said this would potentially violate election law.
Even if it were permissible under state election law, Council member Adam Hussain opposed pushing the date back any further.
“Frankly, this is tantamount to a constitutional convention. It’s incredibly important, and the last thing I would want to do is give organizations, entities and outside influencers more time to put money behind certain people that would do their bidding as part of this,” Hussain said.
Swope said that he “would love to not have a May election. I would love for the city not to have the expense of the May election, but based on the discussions with the law department, that’s what we came up with,” Swope said of the decision to designate May 7 as the election date.
To file, candidates must have three years of residency in Lansing, with at least one of those immediately preceding their potential term starting May 21, 2024. By law, no city officer or employee is permitted to be elected, but they can still run so long as they vacate their current position prior to being sworn in as a commission member, according to Smiertka. The process is also subject to standard state campaign finance laws.
Once the commission is formed, all its meetings will be open to the public. If the commission goes ahead and approves a general revised charter via a simple majority vote, it would be sent to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for approval. If Whitmer signs off on the proposed changes, they would then appear on a future ballot, where voters would have the final say.
On the other hand, if proposed revisions are rejected three times, or if no revision is adopted within three years from May 21, 2024, the Charter Revision Commission would dissolve and cease to exist.
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