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East Lansing ballot proposal could change City Council swearing-in date

Marie Wicks stands before an East Lansing podium at the city's early voting center
Arjun Thakkar
Marie Wicks speaks at the opening of East Lansing's early voting center.

During Tuesday’s local elections, voters in East Lansing will decide whether the City Council's swearing-in date should be delayed from November to January.

Officials are proposing the time change to comply with new statewide voting requirements.


Currently, the City of East Lansing Charter establishes that City Council member terms of office begin the Tuesday following that City election.

The City Council is proposing that Charter Section 3.3 be amended to change the commencement date of City Council member terms of office to the first Tuesday following January 1 of the following calendar year, and shall be effective beginning at the next regular City election.

Shall the amendment as proposed be adopted?

East Lansing’s city charter states new city councilmembers are to be seated one week after a November local election. But a new state law approved in last year’s election gives more time for military and overseas voters to submit their ballots and for clerks to canvass and certify the results.

Interim City Clerk Marie Wicks said the changes could put East Lansing’s timeline rules at odds with state law. She added councilmembers can't be seated until the results are validated, meaning under the current guidelines, the city would be in violation of its own charter.

“We certainly wouldn’t do a swearing-in unless the results were certified,” Wicks said.

Wicks said the proposal amounts to "a little charter clean-up." The East Lansing City Council moved this summer to put the charter amendment before voters, a necessary step as changes to the city's charter require approval from residents.

The measure would delay the swearing-in date to the first council meeting in January following an election. If approved, the change would first take effect following the 2025 city council elections.

Some residents, including multiple candidates for East Lansing City Council, have expressed concerns that the proposal would create a "lame-duck period." They argue the change gives outgoing councilmembers who lost an election unnecessary extra time to continue serving.

“The concern in general about lame-duck is that folks who may be going off council might vote a certain way knowing that they don't necessarily have to be held accountable at the ballot box,” Wicks said.

Voters in East Lansing will also weigh in on proposals that could expand the city council or support ranked-choice voting.

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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