The basics for the 2018 midterm election in Michigan

Courtesy / Grand Valley State University

Courtesy / Grand Valley State University

McKenna Peariso

You’ve been seeing the ads on your television and the reminders on your social media for months: it’s midterm season. Which means it is not only time to head to the polls, but also time to learn more about the candidates and policies you will be voting on. 

There are many spots in Michigan’s government that are up for grabs this election season including a senator position, Secretary of State and Governor of Michigan. It is important to research candidates and policies before heading to the polls to be sure the candidate selected is the one that best represents your values. Midterm elections do not require voters to vote straight party, so the option to choose several Republican and Democratic candidates is possible.

In the running for Secretary of State is Mary Treder Lang (R) and Jocelyn Michelle Benson (D). The position of Secretary of State oversees public notaries like vehicle registration, licensing for drivers and is responsible for election proceedings in Michigan. In terms of voting registration, Lang and Benson have two different approaches to simplifying the process for Michiganders. 

Lang is advocating for an increase in online Secretary of State services so residents no longer will need to visit the office for their licensing and other needs. The candidate believes this would result in Michiganders only being required to visit the Secretary of State office once every eight years. Benson is choosing to battle long wait times at the office by promising a 30 minute guarantee of service, she plans to do this by expanding kiosks and offering more online services. Benson also plans to offer multi-year or permanent license plates to cut down on trips to the Secretary of State. 

For Michigan’s seat in the Senate, newcomer John James (R) and current Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow (D) are going head to head on issues from veterans services, healthcare, taxes and more. James, an army veteran and businessman, considers himself pro-life, pro-Second Amendment and pro-business according to his website. He supports President Trump’s agenda and wants to cut taxes for Michigan families. 

“Actions speak louder than words,” James said on his website. “From tax relief for working families to the elimination of overbearing government regulations, President Trump is keeping his promises to the American people.”

An elected Senator since 2000, Stabenow inherently has more political experience in Michigan than James. She is also a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, as well as a member on the Senate’s Energy, Finance, Leadership and Budget Committees. 

One of the biggest seats up for grabs for this midterm is for Michigan Governor. Currently held by Republican Rick Snyder since 2011, the chief executive position gives power to sign or veto laws, propose the state budget and appoint state officials like judges and governing boards. The Governor position has shifted back and forth between democrats and republicans with the state wondering where voters will land next.

Following an exciting primary season, the two candidates for Governor of Michigan are Republican Bill Schuette and Democrat Gretchen Whitmer. The two have devised different plans on how to improve Michigan’s economy and well-being. Whitmer, born and raised in Michigan, has fought for workers rights, helped speed up rehabilitation for non-violent first-time offenders and established a Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit to go after abusers. Her most popular motto for the midterm election campaign is “fix the damn roads” which she hopes can be done through the passage of Proposal 1.

Schuette, on the other hand, is most dedicated to cutting taxes, rebuilding roads and growing the job market. He is currently the Attorney General for the State of Michigan where he formed the Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking to fund thousands of DNA evidence tests to provide justice for victims of sexual assault. 

The two are on opposite sides of healthcare reform, with Whitmer wanting to expand Medicaid to cover more people and Schuette favoring the free market style. Both candidates want to lower the cost of prescription drugs, even if they have different ways of approaching it. Schuette encourages the use of health savings accounts and price transparency while Whitmer wants to tackle policies in Washington D.C. to keep costs down. 

For months, Michiganders have heard of the various proposals on the midterm election, but may not know what these proposals entitle. Proposal 1, arguably the most debated and controversial item on the ballot this year, would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over. They would be permitted 10 ounces and 12 plants in their households with a 10 percent tax on the substance. Experts estimate the tax revenue could bring in almost 200 million dollars a year that would support funding to schools, roads and local governments. 

“I will be a yes vote on legalizing recreational marijuana when it appears on the ballot this November. As governor, I’m going to make sure we regulate marijuana so it doesn’t get into the hands of our kids and tax it so the money goes to fixing our roads and our broken education system,” Whitmer said to Bridge Magazine.

Bill Schuette had this to say on the matter to Bridge magazine: “From my perspective, we don’t need to put more drugs in the hands of children, so I’m voting no on that.”

Proposals 2 and 3 deal with voting regulations and districting to make things more fair in the state of Michigan. Proposal 2 aims to redraw the legislative district lines by creating a redistricting commission made up of 13 politically affiliated citizens (four Republicans, four Democrats and four independents). While this would cost the state about $4.6 million annually, it would also increase the transparency of state and congressional lines and reduce partisan influence. 

Proposal 3 would allow for same-day voter registration, automatic voter registration when getting a driver’s license, straight-ticket voting and no-reason absentee voting. Both Schuette and Whitmer have expressed their support of Proposal 3 and their intention to vote ‘yes’ on it. Many believe this proposal would lower the barrier to voter participation and increase numbers at the polls. 

Voting participation and civic engagement are big priorities at Grand Valley State University. The Office of Student Life will have absentee ballots for students in their office until Friday, Nov. 2. If a student is voting for the first time they are required to have their identity verified at the Michigan Secretary of State. If this is not their first time voting, they are all set to fill out a form and the office will address it and mail it for them. Any questions or concerns can be addressed to the Office of Student Life at [email protected] or by phone at 616-331-2468. 

Grand Valley will also be running voter vans on election day for those that can vote in the area. Along with pizza in Kirkhof from 4 to 6 p.m., the voter vans will be running from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and will leave from the Kirkhof Center lot as well as lot D1 in North Campus.

“We see civic engagement as a right and responsibility of citizens,” said Anna Szalay from the Office of Student Life. “Our goal is to cultivate a deep, broad and robust civic ethos at GVSU and in the community. My hope is that when the community sees all of our efforts, it will change the stigma around college students who don’t care about voting.”