Michigan takes on vital role in Presidential election

Riley Coesens, Editor in Chief

Every four years, millions of Americans flock to the polls to cast their ballots for the Presidential election; regardless, it is no secret that a large portion of citizens choose not to vote, as voter turnout in the United States is low in comparison to other nations. In the 2016 Presidential election, one’s personal decision to submit his/her vote or not could have greatly contributed to the results of polling–only 65 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot. In Michigan specifically, the popular vote was turned “red” by just over 10,000 votes–this comes down to just two votes per precinct. This reluctance to submit one’s perspectives comes with a cascade of downfalls, both short and long term, for how people feel they are represented or heard at the local and federal levels. This year, on November 3rd, voters have the chance to support their candidates through the power of democracy by voting with absentee ballots or in-person where possible, as COVID-19 has altered yet another aspect of normalcy. 

The State of Michigan is increasingly important for  presidential candidates and public officials due to its status as a “swing state.” Chosen by a majority of Electoral College votes, the presidential candidate voted into office must have the intention of gaining support from not only the people’s majority, but also the electors selected within each state who vote as trustees for citizens. Swing states, however, are those that vary in representation during each election. “Michigan swings back and forth regularly; when a candidate is looking to get to a majority number to win the presidency, they look at which ones are certain to win,” Chairman of the Oakland County Republican Party Rocky Raczkowski explained. “The real fight is among the swing states.” Michigan has many special features in addition to its status as a swing state that make it stand out:  “Michigan is known for the auto-industry, blue-collar workers, and union workers, which leads many to think of Michigan as a representation of suburban, middle-class America. Both parties want the support of that group of voters, so they are both campaigning hard here to gain more support,” said Alex Barshaw, the Director of Operations of the Oakland County Democratic Party. Though Michigan has gone back and forth through the years on its party stance in the Electoral College, it has remained consistent in other aspects. “Michigan is typically conservative on social issues and democratic with economic ones,” Social Studies teacher Kyle McGrath explained. “The game is to barely win a ton of states and to not count on the trends.” Many political experts believe that one such example of a failure to anticipate the state’s sway involved Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016. A way in which one candidate may lose out on a swing state is by not putting enough money or resources into campaigning into that state, but rather using those funds elsewhere that the vote may be more predictable–it’s a matter of finding balance. 

This begs the question: what happens if a candidate does not earn Michigan’s vote? Generally speaking, the results of a swing state’s movement stick for 30-40 years, as past elections have shown.  According to McGrath, “Michigan is an important piece of the puzzle,” but candidates “don’t need Michigan to be president if [they] get a few other states to replace it.” In other words, a candidate must achieve results by trading electoral college votes if he/she hopes to enter office. Barshaw, however, sees the issue a bit differently: “The Presidential candidates are visiting our state every few weeks, and the Michigan Democratic Party is making more calls than any other state, because it is widely accepted that you cannot win without Michigan,” she shared. “So, your vote is even more critical this year, as a voter in a swing county in a swing state, be sure to register to vote, and make sure your friends vote too!” With 2020 also being a census year, it is especially important to make sure one’s voice is heard; the number of electoral votes a state is granted is dependent upon the population within the state. Between some of the primary swing states in past elections (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin), dozens of electoral votes are on the line that could determine the fate of the election as a whole. 

Just as important (if not more) important than voting nationally, however, is casting a ballot at the state and local levels. It is within these smaller offices that decisions are made based on the specific needs of residents in an area, rather than those passed in Washington D.C. for all Americans to follow. “If there is someone running for office, to spark their agenda, they need to have a team around them that will work with them politically,”  Raczkowski stated. “It is crucial to vote the entire ballot, from the presidency to the courts to the local offices–just as if not more important than presidential candidates, as they have more of an impact on daily lives.” These levels of government directly make decisions regarding roads, schools, health care, and responses to widespread issues, like the results of the pandemic. Barshaw agreed in saying, “There is more on the ballot than just the Presidential race. Our Senator, Gary Peters, is up for re-election, our Congressional Representatives are on the ballot, and so are our State House Candidates, County-wide Candidates, County Commissioners, State Supreme Court Justices, Education Board Members, and more. This is a long ballot this year.The representatives you have at the local level are just as important to research, support, and vote for.” 

All voters can benefit from spending time researching and educating themselves on the candidates running for office in their area. Between contacting local party officials and organizations, scanning online media content, reading newsletters, and using ballot practice tools on sites like Ballotpedia, voters can make themselves more aware and up-to-date on issues than ever before. It is easier now than ever to reach out and connect with political party affiliates, as well as being active on social media to keep up-to-date about campaign progress, events, and results. There are limitless opportunities for anyone to be involved in making a difference long before the polls, but ultimately, simply submitting a ballot is a crucial step toward more political awareness and participation in today’s society. “Your vote counts and your vote matters. Voting has never been easier in Michigan. We have no-reason absentee voting, which means that you can get your ballot mailed to you and you can vote from home on your own time, without needing a reason (previously, you had to prove that you would be out of town or couldn’t take time off work on election day to request an absentee ballot),” Barshaw said. “In many ways, I feel that people have no excuse not to vote.” Additionally, those who are active in community affairs will be better represented when issues arise, or when opportunities to make a difference occur: “When it comes time to have your voice heard, people who don’t vote–they know who does–respond better to those who vote,” Raczkowski shared. It is up to those willing and able to vote to bring capable candidates into office who are determined to help the people, and that starts within localities. 

For more information about the efforts of the Oakland County Democratic Party, visit ocdp.org, to find content about volunteer opportunities, candidates running in our area, and how you can get more involved. To learn more about the Oakland County Republican Party’s endeavors, visit oaklandgop.org  to see how you can get involved. Ultimately, as said by McGrath, it is vital that voters are prepared to use their voices for change; he advises readers to “Challenge yourself–hear from lots of different opinions–get in contact with candidates. Our leaders only have legitimacy if the people vote for them–the more people vote, the more accurately candidates truly represent the people.”