Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 11, 2012

Now's the time to reform Michigan campaign laws; Thank a veteran today for serving


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PTSD — With the frustrations of the 2012 campaign still fresh in our minds, this is a perfect time to talk about making some essential reforms in the way we conduct our political business at the state level.

Michigan Democrats were among the first to jump in, with some good and some predictably partisan ideas. First, the good.

After first castigating Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson for "politicizing" the office, Senate Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer said the Democrats would work on a few ideas:

n Establish early voting and no-reason absentee voting similar to what a majority of states offer. This is a relatively simple step that could help older voters or those with small children or difficult work schedules to vote with essentially zero impact on the system.

n Improve the training of election inspectors to avoid confusion at the polls. That hasn't been a major problem, but any additional training would help.

n Explore modern and other secure methods of electronic voting, including online and mobile voting to utilize available technologies. In New Jersey, which was reeling from Hurricane Sandy, officials turned to e-mail voting for those who couldn't make it to the polls or those whose polling places were knocked out. This is the future and there's no reason to not embrace it now.

Whitmer's other suggestion — to eliminate the position of Secretary of State as a partisan elected official and move election and motor vehicle duties to other state departments — is pure partisan politics that will go nowhere, and rightfully so.

Other ideas being floated have merit.

n Change the way state Supreme Court justices are nominated. Now, the supposedly non-partisan judges are nominated by the two political parties and then go on to run "non-partisan" races for "non-partisan" positions. But the system is a sham and Michigan's top court is as political as any in the nation. That has to change, and the place to start is with the nominations. A distinguished panel of former judges has suggested a truly non-partisan nomination system used in other states.

n Find a way to ban anonymous donations to Supreme Court races. This year, anonymous donors poured millions into top court races, making it appear that justice in Michigan is for sale.

n Ban the use of outside firms to collect signatures to put issues on the statewide ballot. It's a system that has been shamefully abused, and was a major reason voters faced six statewide ballot issues last month. All six failed, even though state and outside sources spent a staggering $140 million to sway voters.

There are lots of other ideas out there for change, but given the inertia of the Michigan Legislature, getting even one or two resolved would be a victory.

The time for you to lobby is now.

Thank a veteran today for serving

It's Veterans Day, the day we set aside to remember and honor the millions of men and women who have served in the military since our nation was formed — in a war — 235 years ago.

A lot of vets died and many more of them were wounded during their service, losing limbs or organs or sometimes even their minds. It has only been in recent decades that we have come to grips withpost-traumatic stress disorder — and other ailments of the brain and spirit that, often silently, plague so many of our vets.

There is something particularly poignant about Veterans Days that come in the year of a presidential election. Just five days ago we were engaged in fierce debates over who would lead the country for the next four years while rarely, if ever, remembering that we've fought a lot of wars to preserve our right to argue and vote or the men and women who did the fighting.

Even now we're engaged in a war in Afghanistan that has taken a heavy toll on members of our all-volunteer military, many of whom have done two or three or even more tours of duty there.

So if you know a veteran (nearly all of us do) or you're related to someone who joined up, thank them for their service and let them know you mean it.

We owe them that.