Making The Democratic Process In Michigan Just A Little Bit Less Democratic With A 21st Century Poll Tax
Representatives Steve Marino, Tommy Brann, Julie Calley, Kimberly LaSata, and Jim Lilly have just introduced six bills, HB 4745 to HB 4750, to increase filing fees for various down ballot political offices across the State of Michigan by 50% to 300%. These are the fees prospective candidates can pay to get on the ballot in lieu of filing nominating petitions.
As you might expect, the highest (300%) filing fee increase proposed applies to candidates for State Representative (and Senator).
The kicker here? The filing fee is also no longer refunded to the runner up. So running for political office in Michigan just became more
From HB 4745:
(2) In lieu of filing a nominating petition, a nonrefundable filing fee of
$100.00$400.00 may be paid to the county clerk or, for a candidate in a district comprising more than 1 county, to the secretary of state. Payment of the fee and certification of the name of the candidate paying the fee shall beare governed by the same provisions as in the case of nominating petitions.
You might say that down ballot candidates can keep their costs down by just filing nominating petitions, which would still be free, but there is a very good reason why Michigan allows down ballot candidates to pay a fee in lieu of nominating petitions for down ballot, district-defined political offices.
Many electors in Michigan simply have no idea which down ballot office district they are registered to vote in. Michigan’s down ballot districts are just a bit irregular. Sure electors know what state they are registered in, and most know what congressional district they are in (except after a good gerrymander!), but how many can identify their State Representative district? Surprisingly few in metro regions. The only way to get good nominating petition signatures is to go door-to-door, and even this is no sure bet after the massive dislocations of the Great Recession. Proofing nominating petitions for down ballot offices has become a real hassle. Filing by fee is not just a defense against McCotter / Conyers petition shenanigans.
The official explanation for HB 4745 et seq. will certainly be that $ 100 isn’t what it used to be (thank you, Federal Reserve!). But $ 100 is still a significant piece of change, more than enough to keep pranksters off the ballot. And your clue as to the real purpose of these fee increases is their sliding scale. A filing fee which has always been a form of fidelity bond will become a poll tax. A 21st Century poll tax which can be periodically ratcheted up by incumbents determined to keep the hoi polloi off the ballot. Just like Michigan’s ratcheting gas tax.
These State Representatives are determined to make the democratic process a bit less democratic, and reduce the annoyance of unwanted competition. Not good.