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Published: Friday, 10/8/2010

No on Michigan proposal

PROPOSAL 2 on the Michigan election ballot asks voters whether they want to amend the state Constitution to "prohibit certain felons from holding elected office" or from being named to any government job "that is policy-making or has discretionary authority over public assets."

Despite its surface appeal, the proposal actually would take power away from the people. The Blade recommends a NO vote.

The Legislature voted to place Proposal 2 on the November ballot. It is popularly known as the "Kwame Kilpatrick amendment," after the disgraced and now jailed former mayor of Detroit who awaits trial on a vast array of federal corruption charges. Soon after his 2008 guilty plea to state charges, Kilpatrick talked of making a political comeback.

The amendment would bar from public service anyone who, in the past 20 years, "was convicted of a felony involving dishonesty, deceit, fraud, or a breach of the public trust," when "the conviction was related to the person's official capacity while holding any elective office or position of employment" in government at any level.

Polls show the amendment is hugely popular and very likely to be approved. But it shouldn't be.

It is hard to imagine anyone ever again voting for Kilpatrick, or anyone else who had been convicted of a felony that betrayed the public trust. Nor would any prudent politician appoint such a person to office.

But there could conceivably be an exception someday - if, for example, there was reason to believe an official was wrongly convicted. In any event, democracy means letting voters decide, even if they make what some may consider poor choices.

This amendment may sound sensible. But it would amount to taking just a little more democracy away, and it continues an unwise tradition of enacting constitutional amendments to deal with problems that would be better addressed by changing current law. Michigan residents should vote NO on Proposal 2.



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