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3 proposals on the ballot in East Lansing could mean changes for City Council

City of East Lansing
Posted at 4:12 PM, Jul 13, 2023

EAST LANSING, Mich. — This week, East Lansing City Council passed proposals that could result in some big changes for the city's leadership, and it falls in the hands of voters this November.

Those proposals include increasing the number of council members from five to seven, changing the council election years from odd to even and changing the swearing in date from November to January.

Increasing the council members

While this proposal originally passed in a 4-1 one vote at this week's meetings, the city attorney realized they voted on the wrong document. This proposal will be revoted on at the July 21 special meeting.

Former mayor and current candidate for City Council, Mark Meadows, thinks increasing the number of seats is unnecessary.

“I think everybody has an opportunity to get on, and by having only five, it generally means that the most experienced people, the people who have been most involved in the city, either on boards or commissions, or as volunteers in some other capacity, are the people who get elected to it," Meadows said. "I think that's a good thing.”

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said it will most likely be up to the voters to decide.

"That's an East Lansing citizen question that will likely appear on the ballot for them to decide," Byrum said. "I merely need to know what the terms are and how many offices there are so that I can properly program and administer the election."

Changing election years

This proposal was passed by council in a 3-2 vote.

Byrum has been an advocate for even-year elections saying they would have increased voter turnout.

“Certainly students will be more engaged," Byrum said. "Historically, they're more engaged on even elections. So moving these East Lansing City Council elections to even years would result in more student engagement, which I think is good.”

Meadows, who is against the proposal, said they should be encouraging people to vote whether it's an even or odd election year. He said right now in odd number years, council elections are at the top of the ballot, but if this proposal passes, they would get moved to the bottom of the ballot following partisan elections.

“You're not as interested in voting for the trustees of Michigan State University, Wayne State University, University of Michigan," Meadows said. "You're not as interested in voting for the judges, even though that's an extraordinarily important decision to make, and we would be right down there at the bottom as well.”

Byrum said she doesn't agree with that argument.

"I think that's a self-serving argument," Byrum said. "I think the City Council members need to remember that it is imperative that they engage all qualified registered voters in their community.”

Meadows is concerned people wouldn't vote at all for council if they're at the bottom.

“There's going to be people who would just don't bother voting for a City Council who should be because their interests should be in having their local government decision as the most important one that they make,” Meadows said.

Changing the swearing in date

This proposal passed City Council in a 4-1 vote and would change the swearing in date for council members from November to January.

Byrum said with the passage of Proposal 2 in 2022, there are more days for ballots to come in via absentee voting making certification take longer. So, she believes swearing in dates should be later.

“We have at least six more days for ballots to come in to the Board of Canvassers before certification," Byrum said. "Certification is going to take at least two weeks, probably longer now, under Proposal 2. So, we can't have people taking their oath of office before the election is even certified to put them in office.”

Meadows is against the measure saying he's concerned about disgruntled members who may not get reelected making decisions for two months.

“There's still work to be done, but why would you want the work being done by people who no longer have been elected to council,” Meadows said.

He said if the language of the proposal was a little different he might agree.

“I think the proposal to change that, if you were to have that language, upon certification by the by the county clerk would make more sense," Meadows said.

If the first proposal passes City Council with the new document, all three will be up for voters to decide on the November ballot in East Lansing.

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