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Byrum: No Vote On El Marijuana Proposal Next Month

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EAST LANSING – Citing timing, cost and the issue of absentee ballots that already have been mailed, Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum says she will not put a marijuana question on the ballot in East Lansing this November.

At issue is a ballot initiative led by East Lansing attorney Jeffrey Hank that would, if approved, repeal the city's marijuana laws and allow the use, possession and transfer — by people 21 and older — of up to 1 ounce of the drug on private property.

Hank submitted 2,326 signatures in July, and 1,343 were found valid, 214 more than needed. When city officials said they would place the issue on the November, 2015, ballot, Hank sued East Lansing City Clerk Marie Wicks, arguing the issue should go before voters soon.

Ingham County Circuit Court Judge James Jamo on Monday ordered Wicks take the necessary steps to place the measure on the ballot.

However, Jamo's order did not specify when it should go to the voters, or mandate that "we expedite the process of placing the question (on the Nov. 4 ballot)," Wicks said.

Hanks is protesting Byrum's decision. He has said a wait of more than a year would disenfranchise voters.

"In 11 other cities across the state, citizens with pro-constituent city clerks will be voting on this same issue," Hank wrote. "Only in East Lansing was democracy denied. We cannot allow such oppressive and anti-democratic behavior to be tolerated in our forward-thinking and progressive community."

Byrum isn't swayed by Hank's argument.

"I do not intend to put this on the ballot. I have not been ordered to put this on the ballot. There is a process to get these things placed on the ballot, and this proposal has not met any of these deadlines," Byrum said Wednesday.

In a Sept. 30 letter to Hank, Byrum said proper procedures had been followed by East Lansing. Reprinting ballots and reprogramming machines would cost more than $16,000 — a cost that would be passed on, Byrum wrote, to all Ingham County residents.

"The East Lansing clerk has done everything she is required to do under the law," Byrum said.

Additionally, East Lansing mailed out 1,143 absentee ballots Monday, and 22 MOVE (Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment) ballots were mailed Sept. 20.

Wicks said at least two dozen absentee ballots have already been returned, and the clerk's office is issuing ballots daily at the counter.

Mayor Nathan Triplett confirmed council members will meet in executive session Tuesday with special counsel Michael Hodge to discuss the issue.

Wicks said state law allows the city council to add a clarifying or explanatory statement of no more than 100 words to the ballot question.

If the council decides to not add a clarifying statement, Wicks said the court order requires her to certify the language and forward it to Byrum.

The language has to be evaluated by the offices of Attorney General Bill Schuette and Gov. Rick Snyder, although the final authority rests with Byrum.



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