Ann Arbor voters showed up and drove “higher than expected” turnout this Election Day, waiting at polling locations across the city to submit absentee ballots and vote in person. According to a press release from the city of Ann Arbor, the city clerk’s office sent out nearly 33,000 absentee ballots with an 85% return rate, compared to 2020, where the Ann Arbor city clerk issued nearly 60,000 absentee ballots with a 97% return rate, reflecting a return to in-person voting this year.
With both Michigan houses in the balance, three divisive constitutional amendments and stark differences between gubernatorial candidates, this year’s midterm election represents a particularly consequential race for both major parties. The 2022 election results will determine the governors in 36 states including Michigan, a battleground state.
This Election Day, registered Michiganders voted in the headline race between incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her challenger, Republican Tudor Dixon.
Dixon grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and moved to Michigan to work in the steel industry. If elected, Dixon vows to eliminate Michigan’s 4.25% income tax and increase support for policing. She has also been an outspoken critic of Critical Race Theory, education on sexuality and gender and legal abortion.
Whitmer, a native of Lansing, previously served in the House of Representatives, the state Senate and currently serves as Michigan’s 49th governor.
Whitmer’s response to the pandemic has been a source of debate among Michigan residents. Many expressed grievances with Michigan’s long lockdowns and subsequent slowing economy, including former President Donald Trump. Whitmer’s supporters have instead pointed to her advocacy for legal abortions. Before the Supreme Court overturned the historic Roe v. Wade ruling in June, a precedent that had enshrined the right to abortion for Americans since 1973, Whitmer filed a lawsuit challenging Michigan’s ban on abortion to ensure reproductive freedom for all Michiganders.
University of Michigan alum Tom Moran currently lives in Fenton, Mich. and is an avid advocate for Whitmer. Moran stood in the center of the Diag throughout Election Day, holding a sign that read, “Protect Women’s Freedom of Choice,” “Vote Whitmer” and “Yes on Proposal Three.” He told The Michigan Daily he believes gubernatorial races nationwide are important while pinning a pro-Whitmer sign to his car.
“She’s a fighter,” Moran said. “I’m looking at the long game. (I think) Trump’s gonna run again. Unfortunately. Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are key to the 2024 election. We need a governor, we need a Secretary of State and an Attorney General that follow the rules and won’t throw away our votes.”
Many residents were passionate about Proposal 3, which would enshrine in the constitution a right to reproductive freedom. Opponents have criticized the proposal for being too extreme, falsely claiming it would nullify parental consent laws. Michigan is the only swing state to have such a potentially consequential abortion-related initiative on the ballot.
Motivated by the gubernatorial race and Proposal 3, many out-of-state students have decided to cast their ballots in Michigan rather than their home states. Business junior Ronit Gagneja, a California native, is among those students.
“I feel like (Michigan) is definitely a more divisive state than California, so I feel like my vote will make a bigger impact here than at home,” Gagneja said.
Gagneja, who voted at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA), said he wanted to vote after talking with people in his community who have benefited from reproductive freedom.
“(I’ve talked) to the people in my life and (have seen) that it’s very impactful to their personal health and their ability to operate as an individual, without the government placing restrictions over how they live their lives,” Gagneja said.
Engineering senior Cole Tubman, who also voted at UMMA and is originally from Louisiana, shared Gagneja’s perspective.
“Louisiana’s a heavily red state, but Michigan’s more of a swing state, so I feel like my vote is going to matter more here,” Tubman said. “I know the Gretchen Whitmer race is really important, (as well as) reproductive freedoms down the ballot.”
Nursing senior Jessica Lee, who voted at the Michigan Union, said she hopes Michiganders are aware of the power they hold when voting for all levels of government.
“I’m hoping people researched the candidates so they know who they’re voting for,” Lee said. “I know a lot of people have been talking about (Proposal) 3 … and there’s also a lot of judicial candidates, like Michigan Supreme Court justices, to vote on and that’s really important.”
Business senior Matthew Anastasio, who also voted at the Michigan Union, agreed with Lee.
“For some people, this is their first (midterm) election,” Anastasio said. “People don’t always realize how important (midterm elections) actually are. But I think the University of Michigan has done a great job promoting it and making it easy for students to vote.”
Ann Arbor voters have proven their commitment to making their voice heard in this election, something that meant standing in long lines to vote for many. LSA sophomore Fiona Sargent said she waited three hours at the UMMA polling station to cast her ballot.
“I got here at 12 (p.m.) and it’s 3 (p.m.) now,” Sargent said. “It’s my duty as a citizen, so here I am.”
Daily Staff Reporters Courtney Plaza and Emma Spring can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily News Editor Roni Kane contributed reporting.