CHICAGO — Michigan voters head to the polls Tuesday to choose party candidates for a hotly contested November general election that features an unusually large number of open seats and will determine control of the Legislature.
Michigan’s term-limit law came into full effect this year, forcing the turnover of nearly all state legislative seats.
Voters approved the law in 1992, but incumbent senators, the governor, and other elected officials were not affected until 2002. Many remained in office until this year.
The 38-member Senate will see at least 30 new members, the highest turnover in its history. The 110-member House got 46 new lawmakers in 2009. Another 55 House seats are open this year.
Also up for grabs are the governor’s seat, the attorney general’s office, and the secretary of state.
The winning party will begin to redraw congressional and state legislative districts.
Michigan is expected to lose at least one, and possibly two, congressional seats due to anticipated population loss based on U.S. Census data. The size of the state’s loss depends mostly on population loss in Detroit, which has suffered from high unemployment in recent years.
Leaders of both chambers are running for other offices. Democratic House Speaker Andy Dillon is running for governor and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop is running for attorney general.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm is nearing the end of her second term. Vying for the job on the Democratic side are Dillon and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero.
The Republican challengers are state Attorney General Mike Cox, U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, Ann Arbor businessman Rick Snyder, Oakland County sheriff Mike Bouchard, and state Sen. George Tom.
In the November election, voters will also consider a number of referendums, including whether to convene a constitutional convention.
A proposed constitutional amendment to allow the state to issue up to eight new casino licenses — five of which would be at horse race tracks — will appear on the ballot. It will be accompanied by an amendment prohibiting the government from “restricting a person’s right to choose his or her private health care system or plan” or impose “a penalty or fine on those who choose to obtain or decline any health care coverage.”
Locally, many voters will weigh in on proposed tax increases or renewed millages to finance capital and transportation projects.
Secretary of State Terri Land estimated that 1.7 million voters will turn out for Tuesday’s primary election.
Meanwhile, lawmakers continue to debate the fiscal 2011 budget, which is due Oct. 1, the beginning of Michigan’s fiscal year.
Part of the hangup comes as the state waits to see if Congress will extend the federal Medicaid assistance funds, set to expire at the end of the year.
Without an extension, Michigan expects to lose at least $260 million in federal funding next year and possibly as much as $560 million.
Granholm last week said she had a so-called contingency budget in place to address the loss of Medicaid funding that will likely feature some kind of tax increase.
Lawmakers have passed a public education budget bill that was boosted by a $200 million surplus in the state school fund. But they have yet to approve the majority of the 15 bills that make up the budget, which has to address an estimated $1.3 billion shortfall in the general fund.