As political dust settles, what do Ottawa County’s votes tell us?


Courtesy to GVSU

Election week is over, and Ottawa County’s results are in. Over three-quarters of eligible voters cast 169,405 ballots. With encouragement from celebrities, national publications, and local newspapers, the people of Ottawa County made their voices heard. But what exactly did they say?

Ottawa County went red in this election as Donald Trump, John James and Bill Huizenga all received around 60% of the county’s votes in their respective races. 

Huizenga, having opposed the House of Representatives’ COVID-19 stimulus package, beat his opponent Bryan Berghoef in the county by 52,000 votes. James, who is staunchly against single-payer healthcare, beat Gary Peters by 46,000 here. Trump, who led the GOP’s approach to the pandemic, beat Joe Biden by 36,000 votes in Ottawa. 

Ottawa County hasn’t been hit by COVID-19 as hard as some of our neighboring counties, but we’ve still felt the impact of the pandemic. Over 7,000 people have tested positive and 87 Ottawa County citizens have died

It’s not over, either. As we enter the winter, cases at Grand Valley State University are surging, with the Virus Action Team raising the university’s Alert Level to three. Around the country, we have climbed to over 128,000 daily new cases.

Given their stances on healthcare, stimulus packages, and the pandemic in general, Trump, James, and Huizenga don’t seem like the best choices for our county. But Ottawa County voters did choose them, and overwhelmingly so. 

There are endless partisan reasons to have voted against James, Huizenga and Trump including their stances on student loan forgiveness, racial inequality and police reform, the environment and energy regulations. For students in the county that attend GVSU or nearby Hope College, those issues stand out, but the list goes on and on. 

The pandemic, however, shouldn’t be partisan. COVID-19 is actively killing Americans, Michiganders, and people from Ottawa County. 

Our county witnessed the damage that the pandemic has done, and if we looked hard enough, we could have recognized who was partially responsible for that damage. But we didn’t; Ottawa County – perhaps intentionally, perhaps unintentionally – voted against its own health and safety. 

Ottawa County has been historically conservative, so it’s not very surprising that the majority of registered voters supported Republican candidates. But this election was different, and to anyone paying attention at Grand Valley, that was obvious. 

Groups of students and faculty, like the Community Service Learning Center, rallied together in the past few months, making information about the election as accessible as possible and declaring that things desperately needed to change. Some citizens in Ottawa County made the right choice and worked hard to help others do the same. 

Despite how Ottawa County voted, Joe Biden and Gary Peters won their elections. The state and the country will be taking a safer, healthier path. With the leadership of politicians who believe healthcare workers and epidemiologists, and value what they have to say, we have a chance to stop the bleeding and begin recovery. 

But until we make it to Jan. 20, no significant changes are going to be made. Can the residents of Ottawa County take their health into their own hands until then? Many voices on campus have made it clear that they’ll try the best they can; but many more, all over the county, simply haven’t.