New administrator's first meeting, jail property annexation finds a road forward, Secure MI Vote discussion, more
Houghton County Commissioners, Oct. 12, 2021
I goofed the beginning of the video up a little, but it evens out after a couple of minutes and I caught my mistake. Luckily, I had two cameras there!
Click the underlined headlines to see the video, or other underlined text for more information and sources.
The public comment started with two residents standing to speak in support of a resolution opposing the Secure MI Vote petition initiative. The second resident was interrupted by several people before trying to continue and being told her time to speak was over by Chairperson Al Koskela.
Another resident stood and also expressed his concern about the possible legislation, and said that “we all know what the game is”, and said that the bill would be approved into law by the Republican-controlled legislature without a statewide referendum or the chance for a governor’s veto.
“This is an attempt to make an end-run around a legislative process,” William Keith said and asked the commissioners to take a principled stand against it.
Later in the meeting, Commissioner Gretchen Janssen and Commissioner Glenn Anderson supported the resolution to oppose the Secure MI Vote petition. Anderson specifically opposed anything that made absentee voting more difficult for the elderly population.
However, upon voting, the commissioners were split 2-2, Commissioner Roy Britz being absent. Without at least three votes, the resolution failed.
One citizen implored people to read the legislation.
The bill does require the last four digits of the elector’s social security number to be part of the registration application, but I don’t see anything that requires it to be on the outside of an envelope. I guess that’s up to whoever designs the applications.
It quite drastically changes the ID requirement. Whereas the previous law allows a person to be identified through a comparison of signatures or offering other information that matches the voter registration list, this law adds a photo ID requirement for all voters.
Where previously being unable to complete the ID requirements meant that you had to sign an affidavit and then your vote was challenged according to the standing practice, the new law requires them to fill a provisional ballow that will be segregated from other ballots and only processed if the voter returns to their local clerk with qualifying ID within six days.
The proposed law also establishes a fund to pay for IDs if an applicant claims hardship and signs a form that is yet undeveloped.
While these requirements may not seem extreme for many of us, people in larger cities, well known to be Democrat “strongholds” are worried the new ID rules could swell already long lines at polling places beyond any capacity they have to manage.
The law entirely bars any person employed by the state from sending unrequested absent voter ballot applications. Those applications must include a driver’s license number, state ID number, last four digits of a social security number, or the applicant must visit the clerk in person to present photo identification.
In some places, the bill changes the word ‘elector’ to ‘individual’, but in others, it changes the word ‘voter’ to ‘elector’. I don’t know why.
It also contains a clause that prohibits private funding to run elections, but it also prohibits “in-kind contributions” from individuals, which many are concerned means volunteering will no longer be lawful. I have to agree the wording is vague enough to be interpreted that way.
There were many complaints about election clerks being overworked during the 2020 election. How much harder will it be without extra outside grant funding, and maybe without volunteers? I might have to ask an election clerk.
Feel free to read the entire proposed law’s language yourself and draw your own conclusions about what’s in it, but I don’t think it really matters, and I’ll tell you why.
William Keith is right, if this petition gathers the 340,000 signatures it needs, the legislature has been quite transparent about their intention to pick this up themselves rather than let it go to a statewide vote.
It’s an “end run” by the legislature (people elected by individual districts) around any kind of state-wide control —no statewide vote, no veto from a statewide-elected governor— and the law will impact the ability to vote of about 10 million people.
I think it’s a dirty tactic, but it’s one they’ve used before. It happened bills on family leave and minimum wage, where they also exercised their currently-lawful right to then alter the bills before they pass, in this instance weakening the provisions in both.
But they could go the other way, building more into a bill once it’s in their hands.
So if this petition garners its required signatures (and it probably will), be prepared for anything to come out of the legislature. There’s really no guessing where this could go.
Commissioner Tom Tikkanen said the 5th Street fire cleanup is “virtually completed”, and that the EPA may even be interested in helping clean up a fire site on 7th street, too.
Tikkanen said the effort of governments and representatives at all levels came together to make the cleanup possible.
Commissioner Glenn Anderson later added that Tikkanen himself was also a big part of the cleanup effort.
Commissioner Tom Tikkanen said that the County Clerk’s office is accepting applications for a transfer station manager, which is also going to start accepting card-based payments next week.
Recycling at the transfer station is going to be available Monday through Friday during the normal transfer station hours (but not Saturday), and later hours are being planned for some weekdays soon, too.
From May through September, 12.5 tons of recycling have moved through the transfer station.
Tikkanen also plugged an upcoming event organized by the Copper Country Recycling Initiative which will feature two speakers.
Tracy Purrenhage has decades of experience managing public and private sector solid waste and recycling programs, and Brad Austin is the Director of Operations at the Marquette County Waste Management Authority, which is where Houghton’s recycling goes.
The meeting is at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 21, at the Carnegie Museum in Houghton.
There wasn’t much of an introduction, but Chairperson Al Koskela did greet the new county administrator, Elizabeth Bjorn, and thanked outgoing administrator Ben Larson for 14 months of work. Other commissioners and county employees later added to their thanks and listed some of what Larson helped the county accomplish; recycling at the transfer station, union negotiations, sale of the old transfer station, and budgets for the transfer station and marina.
Sheriff Josh Saaranen said the Sheriff’s Department is still working to fill the positions left open after the late Sheriff Brian McLean’s death and his own promotion to Sheriff, and picking up projects after Sheriff McLean’s sudden passing.
The Houghton-Portage Township Board has agreed to temporary annexation so that the county can move forward with the land purchase and plans to build a new jail, but wouldn’t agree to a permanent annexation until a millage is passed. If the jail isn’t built and the property is sold off again, the township wants to retain it if taxable.
Commissioner Glenn Anderson pushed to close the purchase before Administrator Larson’s last day on Oct. 22. The board has already approved the purchase.
Postponed one week to Nov. 16.
This is a bummer for me because now it conflicts with my coverage of the Calumet Village Council. The county surely takes precedence, but I don’t like missing one, especially so soon after starting coverage there.
I’ll try to squeeze both in, but it may not be possible.