In signing Senate Bill 571 into law, Snyder insisted that the provision, surreptitiously tagged onto the bill in a late-night vote last month, is being misinterpreted. Yet it’s hard to misinterpret a law that prohibits, say, a school district from explaining to voters the background on a millage request and how taxpayer dollars would be used, or a city from offering details on a bond proposal for vital infrastructure needs.
Technically, the new law precludes such communications within 60 days of an election, so we can assume such information can be shared before that deadline. But even the self-styled “nerd” governor must know that few voters review the facts and make decisions on ballot proposals a full two months before Election Day. Instead, voters will be left to search out the details on their own, unable to gain that information from their own elected officials. Their only recourse is likely to be politically slanted shadow groups more interested in agendas than facts.
In justifying his decision, Snyder argued that public entities were using taxpayer dollars for communications that were advocating a point of view—already illegal under state law—without directly encouraging a “yes” or “no” vote. Granted, if a city seeks a transportation millage, the facts it provides to voters will explain why the millage is being sought and what it will pay for, and thus one could argue it suggests a “yes” vote without actually asking for one. But what’s the alternative? Ignoring the logical question in voters’ minds, “Why are you asking for this millage, and what will you use it for?”
One wonders what Snyder and his minions would have done if this law had been in place when they ballyhooed their confusing and ultimately misguided ballot request for road repairs last year.
This is truly a stunning blow against an informed electorate, the heartbeat of a healthy democracy. Every state legislator who voted for this travesty should be ashamed. Or better yet, voted out of office—and wouldn't it be great if they, too, lacked the ability to beg otherwise within 60 days of an election?
What’s good for the goose, Lansing. What’s good for the goose.