MIDLAND – A new web-based resource helps voters weigh the pros and cons of ballot proposals and other issues of interest to the public. The web site, launched Friday, features information on the four questions that will appear on Michigan’s Nov. 5 statewide ballot.

Information on the four ballot proposals includes neutral overviews of each question, summaries of arguments advanced by both supporters and opponents of the measures, the actual language of the questions, legal details, and links to news stories, commentaries, and studies published by multiple sources. The four ballot questions involve straight-ticket voting, bond authority for sewer improvements, changes in collective bargaining for state employees, and reallocation of Michigan’s tobacco settlement money.

The web site displays, side-by-side, the studies, opinions and arguments produced by a range of non-partisan and partisan groups. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which publishes its own research, created the web site to encourage citizens to consider various points of view before forming conclusive opinions or deciding how to vote on various issues.

The new information service is called "Hot Topics" and is continually updated as news breaks and new research is published. Hot Topics is accessed through the Mackinac Center’s main web site, www.mackinac.org.

Joseph Overton, Mackinac Center senior vice president, said Hot Topics will address whatever policy subjects are of particular newsworthiness at any given time. "The ballot issues are news now since the election is less than six weeks away. As other issues make news, Hot Topics will feature them. High-profile issues that become low-profile ones will be rotated off the page for a while," he said.

Mackinac Center policy analysts are assigned to maintain each Hot Topics issue. Overton said, "This works well because our scholars are already familiar with a wide range of academic literature and news on their subjects in the course of their own research and writing."

"Hot Topics is every Michigan citizen’s one-stop shopping site for the November ballot issues. It is ideal for those with limited time who want context, quick descriptions, and major arguments pro and con," said Overton.

"Until now, voters lacked a single resource for diverse views and credible research on the policy issues they hear about in the news," Overton said. "A free and democratic society functions best when it is easy for citizens to access many independent sources of information," he added.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a nonprofit research and educational institute based in Midland. In addition to policy research, the Mackinac Center operates MichiganVotes.org, a legislative information web site that was recently named one of Michigan’s 40 "favorite web sites" by the Detroit Free Press.