GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Two proposals on the city of Grand Rapids’ ballot this November could change the way the city commission is chosen.
If voters say yes, one proposal would move city elections from odd to even years. The second would end the practice of candidates avoiding a November runoff during the primary.
In anticipation of absentee ballots soon landing in mail boxes, News 8 begins an in-depth look at the local and state issues facing voters this November, including the two Grand Rapids proposals.
Proposal 1 would amend the Grand Rapids city charter to require all city elections take place in even number years.
Empower the Citizens, the same group behind the successful 2014 campaign that put term limits on city commissioners and the mayor, is behind the effort.
Leaders of the group say moving elections to even years would save money and increase turn out by putting city elections on the same ballot as state and national elections.
They also believe it will reduce the influence of special interest groups.
“For those in power who have an easy reelection, it’s going to be more difficult for them to just skate into a seat or retain a seat,” Bonnie Burke with Empower the Citizens said. “And it’s also going to open up the opportunity for those who want to come in and represent their community.”
Above: Full interview with Empower the Citizens’ Bonnie Burke.
Those who are opposed think otherwise. They believe competition with state and national campaigns will reduce the ability of more grass roots candidates who lack a well-established political organization to raise funds on the local level. They also say it could reduce diversity in the candidate pool.
“People may not even be able to consider thinking about running because they could feel that they would need to compete with not only the local races, but the races that are happening for presidential, governor, or other state or other congressional races that are happening,” Second Ward City Commissioner Milinda Ysasi said.
Opponents also argue that putting city candidates on the same ballot as party-backed gubernatorial and presidential candidates would increase the notion of partisanship in what are supposed to be nonpartisan city elections.
Proposal 2 would eliminate the provision allowing candidates to be elected to city office by winning a certain percentage of the votes cast at the August primary election.
Currently, if a candidate gets 50% of the vote plus one, they get the win without a November runoff.
Above: Full interview with Grand Rapids 2nd Ward City Commissioner Milinda Ysasi.
Supporters say the change would increase voter turnout in the fall, but opponents are not convinced.
News 8 has learned a coalition of elected officials and community leaders are expected to launch a campaign against both proposals next week.