With outside Election-Day dynamics at play, Michigan 25X25 ballot initiative falls short

Falling victim to an Election-Day dynamic that saw a categorical rejection of constitutional amendments by Michigan voters, a ballot initiative to increase the state’s renewable electricity standard did not garner the necessary affirmative votes to become law.

While public support of renewables remained strong through Election Day, none of the five proposals to change the state constitution passed. In addition to the renewable energy ballot question, constitutional amendments included those on collective bargaining, home health care, state tax increases and bridge building. One proposed amendment proved a lightning rod of controversy, as it was seen as a ballot initiative backed by a billionaire who wanted to protect his own interests.

Meanwhile, Proposal 3, the renewable electricity standard initiative that would have called for 25 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewables by 2025, received full-throttle public-relations campaign attention in the months leading up to the election, via a $30-million utility-backed push to derail the initiative.

In addition to the Proposal 3 opposition, the initiative was influenced by a well-funded broad-based campaign against all of the ballot initiatives, using a theme of protecting the Michigan constitution. The Wolverine State is somewhat unique in that its constitution is often used as a policy vehicle, having been amended some 32 times since the 1960s.

Seemingly contradicting the Proposal 3 outcome yet shedding light on the public’s constitutional-amendment concerns, in an exit poll completed on Election Day, only 1 percent of voters cited opposition to expanded renewables as the reason to vote no.  A full 73 percent continue to believe the state should increase its wind and solar generation, including 84 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of independents, and 66 percent of Republicans.  Meanwhile, over 60 percent cited opposition to changing the constitution as the reason for voting no.  Proposal 3, therefore, apparently got swept up in the “no change to the constitution” fever that overtook the public in an unusual year when the ballot was bursting with proposals on which to vote.

Meanwhile, wind power continues to be good for Michigan. Wind has proven to be lower cost than almost all conventional sources, according to the state’s economic regulator, the Michigan Public Service Commission. Thus, the election results leave some unanswered questions about the state’s energy policy, with interest in renewables remaining strong because of their benefits.

By Carl Levesque, Consultant, http://www.awea.org/blog