Proposal 3 caught up in macro political forces
WMEAC is disappointed that Proposal 3 was soundly defeated, but was very proud to have supported a citizen’s initiative that would have mandated 25% of energy sold in Michigan come from renewable energy sources by 2025.
It became apparent late in the campaign and obvious very early on election night that an across the board “no” vote generated by a tsunami of hi-level political forces would take down Proposal 3. These hi-level political forces would prove more powerful than any Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs (MEMJ) campaign messaging, tactics, or even clean energy as an issue. It seems that not only were voters disinclined to rock the boat in Michigan, but they tended to support the status-quo across the country – perhaps not wanting to take on any more risk during a still burgeoning economic recovery. Voters returned the President to office, reinforced status-quo party rule in the U.S. House and Senate, as well as in the Michigan state House and Senate. It is worth noting that the while the status-quo was reinforced, it had a left leaning edge to it as Progressives and Democrats made gains.
Unfortunately, the CARE coalition and its opposition allies successfully rode the status-quo vote on a well-financed vessel complete with simple and often misleading messaging. Care outspent MEMJ at least 3:1 spending with an estimated $40 million directly opposing Proposal 3. That ratio was expected; however, what was not expected was an opposition wholly unified across the six ballot proposals that would push the 3:1 spending gap to 5:1.
Proposal 3 opponents harnessed the electorates risk aversion, tapped into voters’ emotional (and to a lesser extent substantive) reaction to the constitutional approach, and simplified the message for five of the six (very different) amendments to a ‘don’t mess with the constitution no vote’. “Yes on 1, no on the rest” proved so simple and effective that voters went “no” across the board – even on proposal 1 – taking down one of Governor Snyder’s signature legislative accomplishments.
Proposal 3 defeat was not a referendum on clean energy.
Exit polling confirmed what CARE, Consumers Energy’s CEO, and editorial endorsements statewide were overtly stating in their anti-proposal 3 messaging: Michiganders are very supportive of clean energy. Exit polling conducted by the American Wind Energy Association identified only 1% of voters who voted against the proposal because they had concerns about expanding clean energy in Michigan.
MEMJ coalition to continue
MEMJ campaign leaders have communicated to coalition members that the group of business, environmental, labor, health, and faith organizations would continue working together with volunteers and major supporters by continuing this important work in the state legislature. Campaign organizers report that they and some of the large campaign donors were very impressed with the collaboration of the many groups, particularly the environmental community, and are in talks to discuss how the coalition can continue moving clean energy forward in Michigan.
WMEAC was supportive of a statewide environmental citizens’ initiative from before its conception as a clean energy initiative – relishing the opportunity to play offense on a major environmental issue during a time when only defensive postures at the statewide level seemed likely.
The final stretch
Approximately three weeks out, as the opposition unified and spending against proposal 3 accelerated, it became obvious that polls were tightening. Voter contact phone calls were getting more difficult and almost every day a new negative ad would hit television, radio, mail, and were even inserted into utility ratepayer bills. Money, staff, and other resources began pouring into Michigan as the national implications of the campaign became clear. More resources were available for the field campaign and in a very short order the plan grew.
Having an excellent physical space and location, as well as a high-quality volunteer base, and wanting to play a stronger role in the campaign WMEAC offered to play Election Day central for West Michigan. The Campaign thought it was an excellent idea and WMEAC coordinated with Sierra Club, Green Corps, MLCV, Mom’s Clean Air Force, and Clean Water Action to stage West Michigan Election day activities out of its 1007 Lake Drive offices. Within days of this arrangement working MEMJ field campaign chose WMEAC’s Policy Director to be the Campaign’s West Michigan Hub Captain.
Thank you volunteers!
WMEAC is grateful for the outpouring of volunteer time and resources dedicated to bring more clean energy to Michigan. Over the course of the campaign WMEAC logged hundreds of volunteer hours and opened our doors to a host of old friends and new allies. The WMEAC office ran smoothly as West Michigan’s Election Day Hub and volunteers joined the effort before six in the morning and kept humming throughout the day as we talked to voters across Michigan about the importance of clean energy and proposal 3.
WMEAC is extremely thankful for the opportunity to stand with citizens for all over West Michigan in calling for a clean energy future, and we look forward to continuing this important work in West Michigan and Lansing in the months and years to come.