Michigan’s 2022 election saw a midterm-record 4.45 million voters turn out to the polls, resulting in a Democratic trifecta in the Michigan House, Senate and Governor seat for the first time in nearly 40 years. 

Voters across the state, including University of Michigan students, faculty and community members, voted on some pivotal issues, including abortion, crime, the economy, immigration, inflation and student debt. From early in the morning to late into the night, students and Ann Arbor residents sat through hours of cold on Nov. 8 waiting to vote at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and countless others made their way to designated polling locations between Tuesday’s classes.

With wins from incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, many U-M students said they feel hopeful for the future and the state of Michigan.LSA sophomore Philip Rentschler said he was especially glad to see the Democratic Party take control of the trifecta of state politics, with control of both legislative chambers along with the governor’s office.

“I’m excited to see the Democratic Party hold this trifecta,” Rentschler said. “Although I find the Democratic Party to be less progressive than I’d like it to be, they’re still more likely to move forward than their opposition is. With this much hold over the legislative process, I hope to see them do just that. For example, I’d love to see them push for better education funding, climate regulation, racial equality, sexual equality and so forth while they have the best chance to do so.”

LSA freshman Natalie Wise said she felt inspired by the voter turnout this year, which made history in the state of Michigan. At the University, students waited outside for as long as six hours in order to cast a ballot. The last student in line voted at 2:05 a.m., after getting in line just before the deadline at 8 p.m.

“It was really inspiring to see so many students so invested in the election and taking action to better our future,” Wise said.

The U-M chapter of College Democrats, who helped organize and host events to increase exposure of Democratic candidates to the student body, told The Michigan Daily in a statement following the election that they feel optimistic about the results.

“We, the College Democrats at U-M, are elated by the results of the 2022 midterm elections in Michigan,” the statement reads. “We continue to express our support of Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, Attorney General Dana Nessel, and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson as they continue to work hard for Michiganders. Now that the State House and State Senate have a Democratic majority, we are optimistic of what is to come with this progressive leadership.”

LSA freshman Gavin Thomas, who said he is unaffiliated with campus political activism, said he was also content with the results.

“I’m pretty happy with the outcome. I think that things worked out for the best, at least in my opinion,” Thomas said. “I think that that was one of the best results we could have gotten.”

LSA freshman Mary Backman said she was particularly excited with the passage of Proposal 3, a ballot proposal to amend the Michigan constitution to enshrine the right to an abortion, birth control and other forms of reproductive healthcare. The proposal, which passed with 56.7% of the vote, received widespread media attention following the overturning of Roe v. Wade — a 1973 lawsuit which guaranteed the right to abortions nationwide — in June of this year.

“I’m very excited,” Backman said. “I’m very happy with how the election turned out, (Proposal 3) passed and Whitmer is the governor, and I just couldn’t be happier.”

Some students said they thought the campus reaction to Proposal 3 passing and the reelection of Whitmer was generally positive, including LSA junior Emily Karamihas, who said she comes from a more conservative part of the state.

“A lot of my friends also shared my reaction, so that was definitely nice,” Karamihas said. “It’s definitely different.”

Karamihas, who voted in her hometown of Dexter, Mich., said she was hoping for a Democratic win but wasn’t confident. To her surprise, Dexter cast a majority vote for Whitmer.

“I know definitely in 2016, even 2020, there were a lot of Trump signs I would drive by every day,” Karamihas said. “I was not confident that it would be blue, but it was definitely what I was hoping (for).”

Rentschler said he was actually expecting more votes in favor of Whitmer, who won with 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 want to say, 7%. I think I was surprised, I would have thought it would have been more. All of (the proposals) passed with pretty small margins, and I would have thought to see more, especially for the state of Michigan.”

Whitmer won reelection with a slightly higher percentage of the popular vote than her initial victory in 2018, when she won 53.3% of the popular vote. In 2018, 4.34 million ballots were cast.

Students also commented on the significance of this year’s election, with this year being the first time Michigan’s gubernatorial race has been between two women. Following the election, the Michigan House Democrats appointed state Rep. Joe Tate, D-Detroit, to serve as speaker of the house. Tate will be the first Black speaker in state history. Democrats also selected state Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, as majority leader, the first woman to take up the post. Brinks is also the first woman to represent Grand Rapids in the state senate since 1920. 

LSA junior Safra Arevalo said she was proud to see the diversity in Michigan’s elected leaders.

“I think it’s more important to see diversity in whatever 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 sentiments, saying that having Tate and Brinks in elected roles is crucial in increasing representation in the legislature.

“Even if they prove to be lackluster, which I don’t think they will be, representation is important,” Rentschler said. “It’s good to let people both feel comfortable in their own bodies and know their voices are going to be heard and represented.”

The U-M chapter of College Republicans, who publicly supported many Republican candidates this past election cycle, did not respond to requests for comment from The Daily. The organization issued the following statement on social media:

“Despite yesterday’s results, College Republicans is proud to put our best foot forward in the good fight. Our work is not done,” the statement reads.

Rentschler said he noticed that many conservative voices on campus tend to share their thoughts on social media, rather than speak publicly to likely avoid backlash.

“Snapchat has those campus stories for your (class) grade, and there’s a couple people who have been very vocal about their opinions about that,” Rentschler said. “They’re not being treated too kindly, I will say.”

LSA senior Charles Hilu said the U-M campus has a problem with allowing conservative students to express their opinions.

“I believe there is certainly a culture on campus where you’re expected to have a left-wing opinion, where you are expected to have opinions from the left,” Hilu said. “Many conservative students do not feel comfortable expressing heterodox opinions, and that’s rampant at the University of Michigan.”

LSA freshman Gabe Khouri said voting is a responsibility, but he believes some people are pressured into voting just because they are eligible to and not necessarily because they are adequately informed about the candidates they’re actually voting for.

“That’s why I held off from voting in this election, since I believe I wasn’t in the right place to vote just yet,” Khouri said. “For one, I hadn’t done enough of my own research on what’s at stake, which is mostly my own fault, but I digress. I also simply don’t feel ready to take on that responsibility, and I refuse to cave into pressure to vote for the sole reason that I’m registered, because that is an irresponsible approach to the voting process, in my opinion.”

Looking beyond the immediate aftermath of the election, Karamihas said she’s hopeful for policies a Democratic trifecta might enact and is glad Republicans didn’t gain power.

“I’m hopeful that laws helping protect the rights of trans people especially will become a reality, since they’re facing a lot of fear-mongering in the media lately,” Karahimas said. “I also definitely hope for better gun control legislation to help prevent mass shootings. To be honest, for me it really is mostly about avoiding the election denial, COVID denial and LGBTQ+ panic that seems so common among Republicans lately rather than any specific hopes for Democrats.”

Daily Staff Reporter Joshua Nicholson and Daily News Contributor Eryn Stern can be reached at joshuni@umich.edu and erynster@umich.edu.