Constitution of Michigan
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Constitution of Michigan

Constitution of the State of Michigan of 1963
Seal of Michigan.svg
CreatedAugust 1, 1962
RatifiedJune 20, 1963
LocationLibrary of Michigan
Author(s)Michigan Constitutional Convention of 1961
PurposeTo replace the Michigan Constitution of 1908
Full Text
Michigan Constitution of 1963 at Wikisource

The Constitution of the State of Michigan is the governing document of the U.S. state of Michigan. It describes the structure and function of the state's government.

There have been four constitutions approved by the people of Michigan. The first was approved on October 5 and 6,[1] 1835, written as Michigan was preparing to become a state of the Union, which occurred in January 1837.[2] Subsequent constitutions were ratified in 1850 and 1908. The current constitution was approved by voters in 1963.[3]

Historic constitutions

1835 Constitution

The 1835 Constitution on display at the Michigan Historical Center on Statehood Day in 2013

On January 26, 1835, Acting Territorial Governor Stevens T. Mason issued an enabling act authorizing the people of Michigan to form a constitution and state government. The Michigan Territorial Council, the unicameral governing body of the Michigan Territory called a constitutional convention in anticipation of statehood. The convention lasted until June 24, and the proposed constitution was adopted by the voters on October 5, 1835, by a 5-to-1 margin, with 6,299 votes for and 1,359 votes against.[4][5] A bill of rights was included in this constitution, though suffrage was granted only to white males over age 21. The constitution established a superintendent of public instruction, an office which still exists today, and the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, as well as the auditor general and the justices of the Supreme Court were to be appointed, not elected.[1]

1850 Constitution

The Constitution of 1850 was adopted November 5, 1850, after a convention lasting two and a half months. Major changes from the 1835 Constitution included making the Secretary of State, the attorney general, the auditor general, and the Supreme Court elected rather than appointed offices, directed the state to establish an agricultural school, and added articles on local government, finance and taxation, and corporations. It also added the provision that the question of a general revision of the constitution be submitted at the general election every 16 years.[4][6] A proposed amendment to extend to women the right to vote in 1874 was defeated, 136,000-40,000.[7]

1908 Constitution

The Constitution of 1908 was adopted on November 3 of that year, after a convention of 96 delegates lasting four and a half months, from October 1907 to March 1908.[4][8][9]

1963 Constitution

Article I: Declaration of Rights

Many provisions of Article I of the Michigan Constitution appear to be taken from the United States Bill of Rights, with some sections being verbatim ones found there.

Article one of the Michigan Constitution is analogous to the United States Bill of Rights and consists of 27 sections, though originally consisting of only 23 sections when the current constitution was adopted in 1963. It is similar to the declaration of rights in many other state constitutions and mirrors many of the provisions found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Section one spells out how "All political power is inherent in the people." Section two establishes the rule of law, equality before the law, and principles of non-discrimination. Section three describes the rights of assembly, consultation, instruction, and petition; the rights of association and protest can also be derived from this section. Section four establishes the freedom of religion by saying, "Every person shall be at liberty to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience." Section five protects the freedom of speech and the freedom of press. Section six consists of the right to bear arms.

Section seven provides that the military power is subordinate to the civil power and section eight provides protection against the quartering of soldiers on private property and the undue intrusion of agents of the state. Section nine prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude, but specifically allows for criminal punishments that amount to community service. Section ten says, "No bill of attainder, ex post facto law or law impairing the obligation of contract shall be enacted."

Section eleven protects against unreasonable searches and seizures and creates the necessity for law enforcement to obtain warrants to conduct either one. Part of section eleven was struck down numerous times in court as being in violation of the United States Constitution (Lucas v. People, Caver v. Kropp, People v. Pennington, and People v. Andrews); that part reads, "The provisions of this section shall not be construed to bar from evidence in any criminal proceeding any narcotic drug, firearm, bomb, explosive or any other dangerous weapon, seized by a peace officer outside the curtilage of any dwelling house in this state." Section twelve protects the writ of habeas corpus, while section thirteen provides "A suitor in any court of this state has the right to prosecute or defend his suit, either in his own proper person or by an attorney." It could be interpreted as the right of access to the courts.

Section fourteen preserve the right to trial by jury, in both civil (for those with remedies at law; juries for equitable remedies require a special process) and criminal cases. Section fifteen prohibits double jeopardy, provides that "All persons shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties", but goes on to list the limited instances where bail can be denied and the remedies for those who were denied bail. Section sixteen protects against excessive punishments, including cruel or unusual punishment, excessive bail, and excessive fines. It also prohibits the unreasonable detention of witnesses. Section seventeen protects a person against forced self-incrimination and provides for fair treatment during investigations and hearings. Section eighteen prohibits witnesses from being dismissed because of religious beliefs. Section nineteen provides the right to truth as a defense against defamation accusations. Section twenty provides for the rights of the accused during criminal proceedings. Section twenty-one prohibits imprisonment for debt, and section twenty-two provides for the definition of treason and the requirements to convict someone of it. Section twenty-three proclaims "The enumeration in this constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

Section twenty-four provides for the rights of crime victims and was adopted by initiative in 1988. Section twenty-five was adopted by initiative in 2004 and defines marriage as between one man and one woman, effectively prohibiting same-sex marriage and polygamy. Section twenty-six prohibits affirmative action programs and calls for the equal treatment of all candidates for public education, employment, and contracts; it was adopted in 2006 by initiative. Section twenty-seven provides for human embryonic stem cell research in the state; it was adopted by initiative in 2008.

Article II: Elections

U.S. Senator from Michigan, Carl Levin, is an example of someone who benefited from the Supreme Court's ruling overturning state-imposed term limits on Members of Congress like those found in Article II of the Michigan Constitution. He served in the Senate from 1979 to 2015.

Article two establishes the basic rules, procedures, and guidelines for elections in the State of Michigan. It provides that all citizens of the United States who are at least 21 years of age (though the 26th amendment to the United States Constitution lowers this to 18 years), have resided in the state at least six months, and who meets the requirements of local residence shall be entitled to vote. It also empowers the legislature to exclude people from voting because of mental incompetence (though in Doe v. Rowe Federal District Court Judge George Singal found it unconstitutional to deny a person the right to vote solely because of the existence of a mental illness)[10] or commitment to a jail or prison. It also allows the legislature to lessen these requirements for presidential elections.

The article also establishes the time, place, and manner of elections, in addition to the necessity of a vote of the resident electors for increases in property taxes above certain thresholds on the county and municipal level as well as for the issuing of municipal and county bonds. Article two establishes a state board of canvassers and primary elections. It prohibits ballot designations of candidates, except in cases of similar surnames. It also instructs the legislature to "enact laws to preserve the purity of elections, to preserve the secrecy of the ballot, to guard against abuses of the elective franchise, and to provide for a system of voter registration and absentee voting."

Article two provides for limited direct democracy through the initiative, referendum, and recall, establishing a process for all three. All three are invoked by petitions followed up by ballot votes.

Article two also attempts to restrict the number of terms United States Senators and Representatives from the State of Michigan can serve. For senators, it is twice within any given twenty-four year period (no more than two-consecutive terms without a break of two terms), while for representatives it is three times during any given twelve-year period (no more than three consecutive terms without a break of three terms). Such term limits were adopted in 1992 by ballot initiative but were ruled to be unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court.

Article III: General Government

The seal of the State of Michigan as provided for in Section 3 of Article 3

Article three outlines some of the basics of the Michigan government, including that the state capital is Lansing and that within the government there shall be a separation of powers into legislative, executive, and judicial branches. It also establishes a great seal and a militia, providing that law will regulate both. The article also allows the state and its subdivisions to enter into agreements with other governments, including other states, the United States, and Canada, and any subdivisions therein.

Section six limits internal improvements. Section seven of the article continues the common law and statutes already in effect at the time it takes force which do not conflict with the constitution itself. Section eight says that "Either house of the legislature or the governor may request the opinion of the supreme court on important questions of law upon solemn occasions as to the constitutionality of legislation after it has been enacted into law but before its effective date."

Article IV: Legislative Branch

The floor of the Michigan House of Representatives

Article IV has 54 sections, originally having only 53 sections before the addition of term limits for members of the State Legislature.

Section 1 vests the legislative powers of the state in a house of representatives and a senate. It continues by stating that the number of senators is to be 38 and their terms are to be for four years. It describes the process to create senatorial districts and apportionment factors and rules. It then fixes the number of representatives at 110 and their terms for periods of two years.

It continues by describing the apportionment rules and factors for representative districts, including the method, the process to form areas for districts, the annexation or merger with a city for apportionment purposes, the contiguity of islands. The article also describes the composition of and empowers the commission which draws state legislative districts, including eligibility for membership on the commission, terms, the filling of vacancies, officers, compensation, public hearings, and public records. It also handles disagreement by the commission as to which plan is the best or most appropriate, which is settled by the Supreme Court. The same section also empowers any elector to challenge the lines drawn by the commission in the Supreme Court on any basis of bias or discrimination or otherwise not meeting the standards set forth in the constitution.

Section seven sets forth the qualifications of senators and representatives: "Each senator and representative must be a citizen of the United States, at least 21 years of age, and an elector of the district he represents. The removal of his domicile from the district shall be deemed a vacation of the office. No person who has been convicted of subversion or who has within the preceding 20 years been convicted of a felony involving a breach of public trust shall be eligible for either house of the legislature."

Sections eight and nine describe the ineligibility of legislators to be federal, state, or local employees or officials, but allows them to be in the armed forces reserves and or a notary public. Section ten prohibits conflicts of interest in state, county, and municipal contracts for legislators and other state employees. Section eleven describes the privileges of members of the legislature, all of which are similar to those of Members of Congress. Section twelve establishes the state compensation commission and allows the legislature to override it only be active action.

Sections thirteen and fourteen deal with specific procedural issues of the legislature, including quorums, convening, adjournment, and related topics.

Article V: Executive Branch

Gretchen Whitmer is the governor of Michigan and the head of the executive branch.

Article V has a total of 30 sections which outline the powers and duties of officers in the executive branch of state government.

The executive power of the state is vested in the governor.[11]

Section 2 limits the number of state executive departments to 20 which may be reorganized by the governor by executive order (the Legislature has the power to disapprove of a reorganization within 60 days). The head of each department is required to be a single person appointed by the governor, except where the constitution or law provides for a board or commission.

Many appointments by the governor are subject to the advice and consent of the state Senate, however a Senate vote is only for disapproval of an appointment as opposed to the advice and consent of the United States Senate for a presidential appointment which is required before a nominee takes office.[12]

The departments of state government are under the supervision of the governor, and the directors form the governor's cabinet. The governor also has the power to initiate court proceedings in the state's name to enforce compliance with a constitutional or state mandate, but this power does not authorize a suit against the Legislature.[13] The governor also has the power to remove or suspend from office any elected or appointed state officer, except a legislator or a judge.[14]

The governor is the commander-in-chief of the Michigan National Guard, issues writs of election to fill vacancies in the Legislature, has the power to grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons, and may convene the Legislature on extraordinary occasions.

Annually, the governor delivers a State of the State message to a joint session of the Legislature and may present special messages throughout the year on various topics. They also delivers a budget recommendation each year, assisted by the State Budget Director. The governor has a line-item veto for appropriations bills.

Article V also prescribes the powers and duties of the three other major elected state officers: the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, and the attorney general. All three are nominated at their respective party conventions; the lieutenant governor runs on a ticket with the governor for the general election.

In order to be eligible for election as governor or lieutenant governor, a person must be 30 years old and a registered voter in Michigan for the four years preceding election.

An executive residence is provided for the use of the governor at Lansing. They also have a summer residence on Mackinac Island.

Like the Vice President of the United States, the lieutenant governor is the president of the state Senate. The lieutenant governor is also first in the line of gubernatorial succession, followed by the secretary of state and the attorney general. Unlike the Vice President, when the governor is out of the state, the lieutenant governor possesses all of the powers of the governor, including the power to sign bills passed by the Legislature.

Under an amendment to the state Constitution adopted by the voters in 1992, the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and attorney general are limited to two four-year terms in office.

Article VI: Judicial Branch

The Honorable Robert P. Young, Jr. was the chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court and the functional head of the judicial branch.

The Constitution vests the judicial power of the state in "one court of justice," divided into one supreme court, one court of appeals, one circuit court (the state trial court), probate courts, and other courts that the Legislature may establish.[15]

The Supreme Court consists of seven justices nominated at party conventions and elected at a non-partisan general election. A chief justice is elected by the court from among its members, and the court also selects an administrator of the courts.[16] The Court has "general superintending power" over all of the courts in the state, but it does not have the power to remove a judge. Decisions of the Court and dissents are required to be in writing.

Article VII: Local government

Article VII provides for local units of government, particularly counties, townships, cities, and villages.

Counties are to be governed by an elected board of commissioners, as well as a popularly elected sheriff, clerk, treasurer, register of deeds, and prosecuting attorney. State law also provides for an optional form of county government which includes a popularly elected county executive.[17] Currently, only Oakland and Bay Counties are governed in this fashion. Counties are also granted the authority to adopt a charter, subject to a vote of the people. Currently, only Wayne and Macomb Counties have adopted county charters.

Article VIII: Education

Article VIII provides for a system of public education in the state, stating that "Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."

The Legislature is charged with the maintenance of the state's public schools and assigns supervision of education in the state to a popularly elected State Board of Education; the State Board, in turn, selects a state superintendent of public instruction who is the principal officer of the Michigan Department of Education.

Michigan's 15 public universities are each governed by a board, which is either elected (in the cases of the Michigan State University Board of Trustees, the University of Michigan Board of Regents, and Wayne State University Board of Governors) or appointed by the governor (in the cases of the other 12 universities' boards of control or trustees). Each board selects the university's president.

The legislature also establishes and supports public community and junior colleges and public libraries.

Article IX: Finance and Taxation

Article X: Property

Article XI: Public Officers and Employment

Article XI prescribes the oath of office to be taken by all officers of the state. It also sets the time at which terms of office of elective state officers and judges begins--12 noon on the January 1 after their election.

This article also sets provisions regarding money and public officials, saying that no extra compensation can be given to any public officer, agent or contractor after services have been rendered or a contract entered into. Additionally, a person have custody or control of public money cannot be a member of the Legislature or hold office under the state until an accounting is made of what they are liable for.

The state civil service is also described in this article.

Similar to the process at the federal level, the Michigan House of Representatives is granted the sole power of impeachment of civil officers, and the Senate then tries the impeachment.

In 2010, voters approved the so-called "Kwame Amendment", named for former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick of Detroit. It provides that a person is not eligible for election or appointment to any state or local office if they have been convicted of a felony involving "dishonesty, deceit, fraud, or a breach of the public trust" related to their duties in an elected position or in public employment.[18]

Article XII: Amendment and Revision

Article XII establishes the rules by which the constitution can be amended. Several methods can be employed to propose and ratify amendments. Section 1 allows amendment by proposal of the legislature, and ratification by popular vote.[19] Section 2, however, allows the electorate to propose amendments by petition, and ratification by popular vote.[20]

Section 3 establishes the precedent that, starting with 1978 and every 16th year thereafter, the electors of the state will be asked whether the constitution shall be revised. If a majority of the popular vote finds this to be the case, there will be a constitutional convention.[21]


The Michigan Constitution has been amended several times since its creation.[22]

Subject of Amendment Article/section Method Year Action Vote in favor Vote opposed
Establish Judicial Tenure Commission Art. VI, sec. 30[23] HJR PP of 1968 Aug. 1968 Approved 553,182 228,738
Require legislature to create state officers compensation commission Art. IV, sec. 12[24] HJR AAA of 1968 Aug. 1968 Approved 417,393 346,839
Define manner of filling judicial vacancies Art. VI, secs. 20,[25] 22,[26] 23,[27] 24[28] HJR F of 1968 Aug. 1968 Approved 494,512 266,561
Prohibit public aid to nonpublic schools and students Art. VIII, sec. 2[29] Initiatory Petition of 1970 Nov. 1970 Approved 1,416,838 1,078,740
Allow legislature to authorize lotteries and the sale of lottery tickets Art. IV, sec. 41[30] HJR V of 1972 May 1972 Approved 1,352,768 506,778
Allow trial by jury of less than 12 jurors in all prosecutions for misdemeanors punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year Art. I, sec. 20[31] HJR M of 1972 Aug. 1972 Approved 696,570 357,186
Prohibit legislators' pay increases for lawmakers unless approved by a 2/3 vote of each house of the legislature Art. IV, sec. 12[32] HJR of 2002 Aug. 2002 Approved 1,057,503 404,682
Limits eminent domain powers of local communities Art. IV, sec. 12[33] SJR E of 1972 Nov. 2006 Approved 2,914,214 724,573
Establish an independent redistricting commission Art. IV, sec. 6[34] Initiative Petition of 2017 Nov. 2018 Approved 2,507,294 1,586,831

See also


  1. ^ a b "CONSTITUTION OF MICHIGAN". Retrieved 2016.
  2. ^ 19th century Michigan History
  3. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Michigan Manual 2011-2012: Constitutions
  5. ^ Journal of the Senate of the State of Michigan (1835-1836 ed.), Detroit: John S. Bagg, 1836, p. iii, retrieved 2018 – via HathiTrust
  6. ^ "CONSTITUTION OF MICHIGAN". Retrieved 2016.
  7. ^ Berenson, Barbara F. (April 9, 2018). Massachusetts in the Woman Suffrage Movement: Revolutionary Reformers. History Press. p. 64. ISBN 978-1-4671-1862-0. Retrieved 2020.
  8. ^ "CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN OF 1908". Retrieved 2016.
  9. ^ Fairle, John A. (1908). "The Michigan Constitutional Convention of 1907-1908". American Political Science Review. 2 (3): 443-447. doi:10.2307/1944826. ISSN 1537-5943.
  10. ^ "The Right to Vote".
  11. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 2016.
  12. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 2016.
  13. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 2016.
  14. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 2016.
  15. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 2016.
  16. ^ "State Court Administrative Office". Retrieved 2016.
  17. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 2016.
  18. ^ Oosting, Jonathan (June 11, 2010). "'Kwame Amendment' to Michigan Constitution would ban felon politicians for 20 years". MLive.
  19. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 2016.
  20. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 2016.
  21. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 2016.
  22. ^ 2011-2012 Michigan Manual: Proposed Amendments to the Constitution of 1963--Summary of Adoption or Rejection
  23. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 2016.
  24. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 2016.
  25. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 2016.
  26. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 2016.
  27. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 2016.
  28. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 2016.
  29. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 2016.
  30. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 2016.
  31. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 2016.
  32. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 2016.
  33. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 2016.
  34. ^ Jackson, Stephen. "Proposal 18-2" (PDF). Senate Fiscal Agency.

External links

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