Michigan’s 2022 election saw a mid-term record 4.45 million voters, resulting in a Democratic trifecta in Michigan’s House, Senate and governorship for the first time in nearly 40 years.
On November 8, University of Michigan students, faculty members and parishioners voted on some key issues including abortion, crime, the economy, immigration, inflation and student debt. From early morning until late at night, students and residents of Ann Arbor sat for hours at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, freezing in wait to cast their ballot, and scores of others made their way to designated polling stations between Tuesday’s classes.
With victories from incumbent Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told many UM students they were hopeful for the future and for the state of Michigan. LSA student Philip Rentschler said he was particularly pleased to see the Democratic Party taking control of the trifecta of state politics, with control of both houses of the legislature along with the governor’s office.
“I’m glad the Democratic Party is holding this trifecta,” Rentschler said. “While I find the Democratic Party to be less progressive than I would like, they are still more likely to advance than their opposition. With so much influence over the legislative process, I hope they do just that. For example, I’d love to see them push for better funding for education, climate regulation, racial equality, gender equality and so on while they have the best chance to do so.”
LSA freshman Natalie Wise said she was inspired by this year’s turnout, which made history in the state of Michigan. At the university, students waited outside for up to six hours to cast their ballots. The last student in the queue voted at 2:05 a.m., having queued just before the 8 p.m. deadline
“It was really inspiring to see so many students investing so much in the elections and taking action to improve our future,” Wise said.
The UM chapter of the College Democrats, which helped organize and host events to raise awareness of Democratic candidates among the student body, told The Michigan Daily in a post-election statement that they are optimistic about the results.
“We, the college Democrats at UM, are thrilled with the results of the 2022 Michigan midterm election,” the statement said. “We continue to express our support for Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson who continue to work hard for Michiganders. Now that the State House and State Senate have a Democratic majority, we are optimistic about what will come with this progressive leadership.”
LSA freshman Gavin Thomas, who said he was unaffiliated with the political activism on campus, said he was also pleased with the results.
“I’m pretty happy with the result. I think things have gone for the best, at least in my opinion,” said Thomas. “I think that was one of the best results we could have achieved.”
LSA freshman Mary Backman said she was particularly excited by the passage of Proposition 3, a ballot proposal to amend Michigan’s constitution to enshrine rights to abortion, birth control and other forms of reproductive health care. The proposal, which passed with 56.7% of the vote, attracted widespread media attention after Roe v. Wade — a 1973 court case that guaranteed nationwide abortion rights — was overturned in June of that year.
“I’m very excited,” Backman said. “I’m very pleased with the outcome of the election (proposal 3) and Whitmer is the governor and I just couldn’t be happier.”
A few students said they found the campus response to the passage of Proposal 3 and Whitmer’s re-election generally positive, including LSA junior Emily Karamihas, who said she hails from a more conservative part of the state.
“A lot of my friends shared my reaction as well, which was definitely nice,” Karamihas said. “It’s definitely different.”
Karamihas, who voted in her hometown of Dexter, Michigan, said she hoped for a Democratic victory but wasn’t confident. To her surprise, Dexter cast a majority vote for Whitmer.
“I definitely know that in 2016, even 2020, there were a lot of Trump signs that I would drive past any day,” Karamihas said. “I wasn’t confident it would be blue, but it was definitely what I was hoping for.”
Rentschler said he actually expected more votes in favor of Whitmer, who won by a 10.6% margin over Republican challenger Tudor Dixon.
“I think I was surprised to see that the numbers didn’t have a bigger majority,” Rentschler said. “Governor Whitmer only won by about, I’d like to say, 7 percent. I think I was surprised, I would have thought it would have been more. All (the proposals) were accepted by a fairly narrow margin, and I would have thought there would be more to see, especially for the state of Michigan.”
Whitmer won re-election with a slightly higher percentage of the popular vote than her first win in 2018, when she won 53.3% of the popular vote. In 2018, 4.34 million ballots were cast.
The students also commented on the importance of this year’s election, as this year marked the first time that Michigan’s gubernatorial election was between two women. After the election, the Michigan House Democrats nominated State Representative Joe Tate, D-Detroit, as Speaker of the House. Tate will be the first black speaker in the state’s history. Democrats also elected Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, as Majority Leader, the first woman to take office. Brinks is also the first woman to represent Grand Rapids in the State Senate since 1920.
LSA junior Safra Arevalo said she is proud to see the diversity in Michigan’s elected leaders.
“I think it’s more important to see diversity at every level of government and legislation,” Arevalo said. “I think that’s just something important to me, so it’s nice to see that.”
Rentschler echoed similar views, saying having Tate and Brinks in elected roles is critical to increasing representation in the Legislature.
“Even if they prove lackluster, which I don’t think, representation is important,” Rentschler said. “It’s good that people are comfortable in their own bodies and know that their voices are being heard and represented.”
The UM Chapter of College Republicans, the publicly supports Many Republican candidates in the past election cycle have not responded to requests for comment from The Daily. The organization released the following statement on social media:
“Despite yesterday’s results, the College Republicans are proud to be doing our best in a good fight. Our work is not done yet,” the statement said.
Rentschler said he’s noticed that many conservative voices on campus tend to share their thoughts on social media rather than speak publicly, likely to avoid backlash.
“Snapchat has these campus stories for your (class) grade, and there have been a few people who have been very vocal about their opinions,” Rentschler said. “You’re not being treated too kindly, I’d say.”
LSA senior Charles Hilu said the UM campus has a problem with allowing conservative students to speak their minds.
“I think there’s certainly a culture on campus where you’re expected to have left-wing opinions, where you’re expected to have left-wing opinions,” Hilu said. “A lot of conservative students aren’t comfortable expressing heterodox opinions, and that’s very common at the University of Michigan.”
Gabe Khouri, a newcomer to the LSA, said voting is a responsibility, but he believes some people are being pushed to vote simply because they are eligible and not necessarily because they are adequately informed about the candidates they are running for actually true.
“That’s why I’ve held off on this election as I don’t think I was in the right place to vote yet,” Khouri said. “For one thing, I hadn’t done enough of my own research into what’s at stake, which is largely my own fault, but I digress. I also just don’t feel ready to take on that responsibility and I refuse to give in to the pressure to vote just because I’m registered because I think that’s an irresponsible way of handling the electoral process.”
Looking beyond the immediate aftermath of the election, Karamihas said she hopes for policies that could enact a Democratic trifecta and is glad Republicans didn’t come to power.
“I am hopeful that legislation protecting the rights of trans people in particular will become a reality as they have faced a lot of scaremongering in the media lately,” Karahimas said. “I am also definitely hoping for better gun control legislation to prevent mass shootings. To be honest, my main concern really is avoiding the voting denial, COVID denial and LGBTQ+ panic that seems to be so common among Republicans lately, rather than any specific hopes for Democrats.”