New polling, GV experts sound alarm over democratic stability ahead of midterm elections


GVL / Macayla Cramer

Katherine Rauhut, Staff Writer

Approaching the midterm elections on Nov. 8, new polling data from Lansing-based EPIC-MRA found that fear over the implications of the upcoming elections for American democracy continues to run high among Michigan voters.

In a poll conducted between Oct. 6 to Oct. 12, EPIC-MRA found that 64% of those surveyed agreed that “in the upcoming November election, our very democracy is at stake” when considering the events on Jan. 6, 2021, the increased restrictions on elections and growing claims of widespread election fraud.

Affiliate Professor of Political Science at Grand Valley State University Roger Moiles highlighted what he believes are the damaging impacts mistrust in elections may have on democratic institutions.

“If the people don’t believe that our elections are valid, then everything that results from them comes under that shadow,” Moiles said. “This is one of the ways that democracies die. Every Michigander, and every American – Republicans, Democrats, third-party voters, and independents alike – should be very concerned about the damage that has been done and what may continue to be done to this process.”

The political unrest and skepticism present in society have illustrated the rising tension between the people and the government. While there haven’t been any drastic actions akin to the riot at the U.S. Capitol since Jan. 6, some supporters of former President Donald Trump have indicated their belief that the 2020 election was stolen and continue to debate the results.

Election skeptics have included nominees running for statewide offices in Michigan next month.

One skeptic, Republican Secretary of State nominee Kristina Karamo, has publicly stated her belief that the 2020 election was fraudulent after working as a poll challenger in Detroit that year. If elected, Karamo would oversee Michigan’s election systems during the next presidential election.

Chairing the political science department at GVSU, Professor Darren Walhof said that the convergence of such claims and the vital nature of elections, seeing democracy as ‘on the ballot’ is a warranted assessment.

“Elections are precarious moments in any democracy, given the stakes involved, so democracy is, in this sense, at stake in every election,” Walhof said. “With any election, you have some disgruntled voters and leaders who claim the results are illegitimate.”

Walhof also said he believes the growing refusal to admit defeat and instead claim widespread fraud – claims that remain without evidence almost two years later – gives credence to the idea that democratic institutions have become imperiled.

“A crucial requirement for democracy is the peaceful transfer of power,” Walhof said. “This requires that those who lose elections accept that they have lost rather than resort to violence in an attempt to either seize power or illegitimately remain in power.”

Turmoil surrounding elections has been a trend in American history, but never before has the country seen what Moiles described as an outright “refusal of a presidential candidate to accept the outcome of an election.”

No opposition to the results of a presidential election has amounted to actions such as the attack on the Capitol, which Moiles said, “compounds the damage done.”

Even in turbulent times in America, such as post-Civil War reconstruction, the losers of the election accepted defeat after the results were finalized.

“What is concerning about our current situation is the size of the group who will accept elections as legitimate only if their candidates win,” Walhof said. “A democracy cannot survive for the long term if this becomes a widespread and sustained sentiment.”

In the face of such dangers, Moiles stressed the importance of voters like those at GVSU to bolster the democratic process against any and all potential threats.

“The important thing is that younger voters, our students, don’t give away their authority to others by sitting out the election,” Moiles said.