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Lansing votes to authorize charter revision for the first time in over 40 years

Flickr - MI SHPO

Voters in Lansing moved on Election Day to authorize a rewrite of the City Charter for the first time in more than 40 years.

The Capital City approved a ballot question asking if there should be a general revision of the charter, a document that serves as a local constitution outlining the rules that guide its government. With the Ingham County Clerk reporting 100% of the unofficial results from city precincts, 51.6% of residents approved the proposal.

Lansing's current charter dates back to 1978, which set up a reoccurring ballot question that asks voters every 12 years if they want to update the city's governance. Changes to the charter could range from fixing spelling errors to a complete overhaul of the city's form of government.

Tuesday's tally brings the city into uncharted territory, as this is the first time since then that voters have sought out an update to the charter. Residents previously rejected the question every time it was on the ballot, including in 2011, 1999 and 1987.

The vote is only the beginning of a long-term process that is likely to occupy city business for years and incur additional expenses. According to the Lansing City Clerk, $500,000 will need to be allocated from the city's budget to hire staff during the early stages of the process, with additional expenses likely to follow.

A special election is expected for early 2024 to fill positions on a nine-member charter review commission. Candidates must be Lansing residents for at least three years and cannot be city employees or elected officials.

The charter revision commission will have three years to research and engage with residents to write a new charter. That draft would also need to go back to voters for final approval. Commissioners also have the ability to propose another revised charter within the set time period should an initial vote fail to pass.

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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