The Detroit News. Nov. 25, 2019

Ranked-choice voting fails to boost diversity

Earlier this month, the city of Eastpointe in Macomb County held Michigan’s first ever ranked-choice election to select two City Council seats. This measure was complex, ineffective and unnecessary.

The new election method, in which voters are required to rank all candidates on their ballot from most preferable to least, was prescribed over the summer to settle a complaint filed against the city by the U.S. Department of Justice just before President Barack Obama left office in 2017.

The Justice Department alleged that since no African Americans had been voted into office despite more than a third of the city’s population being black, racism must be at work. The department concluded that since city elections didn’t produce the results it thought were desirable, the city was in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

As a remedy, Eastpointe had to put in place ranked voting. Voters were asked to rank four candidates, and winners were the two who got 33.3% plus one additional vote after officials tallied all the rankings.

It didn’t work, at least not to produce the diversity the Justice Departemnt demanded. Newly elected council members Sarah Lucido and Harvey Curley are white.

"Most people believe that the results would have been the same with a traditional vote,” Lucido says. “I don’t think it made too much of a difference.”

The city did elect its first black mayor, Monique Owens, but that was with a traditional city-wide vote. In fact, Owens had been the first black city councilwoman as well, elected by traditional vote the same year the DOJ filed suit against the city.

Assistant City Manager Brian Fairbrother says Election Day came off without a hitch, thanks to a roughly $30,000 effort to explain to voters how ranked voting works.

Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Heritage Foundation's Election Law Reform Initiative, spent four years at the DOJ coordinating enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and says he doesn’t think ranked-choice elections are a good idea.

“It’s bizarre that the DOJ would come in and push ranked-choice voting,” he says.

The complaint against at-large voting in elections is that it takes away a sizable minority’s ability to elect their preferred candidate, but von Spakovsky doesn't think ranked-choice voting is the remedy.

The standard, more acceptable solution, according to von Spakovsky, is to create or redraw voting district lines to make “minority majorities” — districts in which the city-wide minority has a majority voice. And then elect council members to represent those districts.

Spakovsky argues that ranked-choice elections actually rob voters of the chance to make informed decisions at the polls, and that runoff elections are a better way for candidates to reach voters about their platforms.

Per the settlement agreement, Eastpointe has to hold another ranked-choice election in 2021. After that, the city should quit the practice and get back to democracy as usual.

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The Mining Journal (Marquette). Nov. 26, 2019

Slow down on Commerce Drive in Marquette Twp.

Just because you can drive relatively fast doesn’t mean you should.

Marquette Township officials are formally requesting a traffic speed and engineering study of Commerce Drive, a busy corridor between Werner Street to Wright Street, from the Marquette County Road Commission and the Michigan State Police.

The township board believes current speeds on Commerce are “hazardous to pedestrians and bicyclists,” citing an increase in commercial, residential and educational development that increased the number of ingress/egress points and traffic congestion.

A lot of development is located along the aptly named Commerce Drive. They include the township community center, fire department, Thomas Theatres, Marq-Tran and the Safe Routes to School pathways along and intersecting the corridor.

All this means more traffic.

According to Michigan Public Act 447, a speed limit should be determined by an engineering and safety study, and by the 85th percentile speed of free-flowing traffic under ideal conditions of a section of highway rounded to the nearest multiple of 5 mph.

The speed study conducted by the road commission determined the 85th percentile speed on Commerce Drive to be 37.8 mph.

Currently, there is no posted speed limit on Commerce, but people are allowed to travel up to 55 mph.

Commerce Drive isn’t exactly a four-lane highway, so 55 mph probably is a tad fast, especially when there are curves on the road. You might get to your destination along Wright Street a bit quicker coming from Commerce, but is the loss of safety worth it?

The township’s request is being considered by the MSP and MCRC, who will make the ultimate decision regarding the speed limit.

We believe this issue needs to be addressed for the safety of motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.

Being proactive is important in this situation, as we’d hate for someone to be injured because of a too-fast speed limit.

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Traverse City Record-Eagle. Nov. 28, 2019

Tell us about your extraordinary neighbors

This week, the annual holiday bustle settled over northern Michigan — a seasonal surge before we tuck in for another long, snowy winter.

It’s a time of year when the generosity so abundant in the Grand Traverse region often steps into the spotlight. A time of year when our communities do their best ensure none of our neighbors are left behind in the season of plenty.

The giving, the surge of seasonal generosity isn’t new. Sure, the Grand Traverse region, by virtue of its stunning coastline and peaceful forests, like most Lake Michigan coastal communities draws visitors by the thousands. But the element that sets us apart from so many, the ingredients that make us plant deep roots, are our neighbors.

That’s why a few years ago, the Record-Eagle decided to spend a little extra time during the final days of the year telling the stories of the unsung heroes who make this place home.

But we can’t be everywhere and don’t know everyone, especially the people who so often give freely, but who don’t seek the spotlight or recognition.

So, in the midst of a time of year when it seems everyone gives just a little more, we need your help. We are looking for the “Good Samaritans” whose stories we will tell this year.

We need you to tell us about the volunteers, friends, passersby, neighbors and family members who spend the extra hours, or go the extra miles. We need to hear about the people who always lend a hand. The ones who never say “no” when someone needs help.

We want to hear about the people in your life who deserve a little recognition for the wonderful contributions they make to our community.

Because they’re the people who make our home so much more that just another pretty beachside town.

If you know of someone the Record-Eagle should highlight in our annual Good Samaritans series, please email us at features@record-eagle.com.

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