In the 2022 midterm elections, Michigan voters showed up in record numbers. On campus, students made headlines for waiting up to six hours after the polls closed for last-minute voter registration. And ultimately, voters ushered in a new era of Democratic control in Lansing. This historic shift in the legislature’s makeup is a unique opportunity, which last happened nearly 40 years ago, to bring meaningful change to Michigan. Despite the excitement around these electoral successes, however, it is critical that people do not get complacent with Democratic power, and instead remain engaged and motivated while Democrats sort out and start work on their policy agenda.
This election was marked by historic wins for Michigan Democrats. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer beat her opponent Tudor Dixon by over 10 points. Whitmer had big wins in many historically conservative counties that she barely won four years ago. Democrats at the top of the ticket were also successful, with Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson beating their opponents by large margins. There was also the passage of Proposal Three, to codify abortion into the Michigan Constitution, which passed by a significant margin, despite the coordinated opposition campaign that pushed the narrative that this bill was “too confusing and too extreme.”
Overall, one of the biggest and most historic events in Michigan this election was the flipping of both houses of the Michigan State Legislature. Democrats won the Michigan Assembly by 56-54 and the State Senate by a 20-18 majority. The last time that Democrats had control of both chambers of the Michigan Legislature and the governorship was in 1983. Michigan Democrats also made history by selecting a diverse party leadership. State Rep. Joe Tate, D-Detroit, will make history as the first Black lawmaker to serve as House speaker. State Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, will serve as the first female Senate majority leader.
It is impossible to talk about the Michigan Legislature flipping without recognizing the role of the Michigan Independent Redistricting Commission. In 2018, voters in Michigan approved a proposal to form an independent redistricting commission that would draw both congressional districts and state House and state Senate districts. This commission allowed for Michigan districts to be drawn fairly and not be influenced by partisan gerrymandering, in stark contrast to 2018 where, despite Whitmer winning by over 400,000 votes, Democrats still lost both houses due to the gerrymandered maps. This midterm was different, as the fairly-drawn House and Senate districts are representative of the will of Michiganders.
With both houses of the legislature and control of the governorship, the Democrats have the trifecta needed to implement important policies that will help all Michiganders. Some important issues that they may address include infrastructure, school funding, gun control and repealing Michigan’s right-to-work law.
Democrats led by Whitmer have sought to increase funding for schools and help reform the education system in Michigan. They may make changes to how school funding is calculated and increase funding for lower-income schools. The Democrats have also spoken about giving bonuses to teachers and expanding early childhood education programs.
One issue that Democrats hope to address, which is very important to many young voters, is gun control. Whitmer has indicated that implementing common sense gun control measures is one of her key priorities for the new session. Possible legislation would include requiring adult gun owners with children to securely store their firearms or face a criminal penalty. The issue of unsecured guns was seen last year with the Oxford High School shooting, where the teenage gunman had access to unsecured firearms. Other legislative gun control policies include red flag laws, which allow law enforcement to remove firearms from people at risk.
Another important issue that will likely be addressed is right-to-work laws. Michigan is currently a right-to-work state. This means that labor unions are prohibited from requiring workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Right-to-work was passed in 2012 by Republicans and supported by former Governor Rick Snyder. The law is viewed by many Democrats as an attempt to reduce the power of labor unions. Over the past few years, we have seen a growing interest in labor unions and workers’ rights at companies like Amazon and Starbucks as people recognize the importance of organized labor. Repealing the right-to-work law is an important step Michigan can take to protect organized labor.
As we look to the future of the Democratic trifecta in Michigan, it is critical that voters stay engaged.
In these midterms, we saw a surprising rightward swing in a Democratic stronghold, New York, showing the importance of omnipresent awareness. New York had a lower turnout, and Republicans flipped several congressional seats. It is possible that in New York, where people feel safe in their liberal bubble, constituents may be less likely to take the time to go out and vote. For example, for voters in New York, the issue of abortion rights may have felt less relevant since the state legislature already codified Roe v. Wade in 2019. This was different from Michigan, where so many voters were mobilized by Proposal Three. As we move into a Michigan with codified reproductive protections, we need to remember that voters cannot get complacent and unengaged.
This upcoming session, Democrats have an amazing opportunity to make important changes that will help Michigan. However, they only have two years and a slim majority. While they will definitely make a major impact, they will need continued support to ensure that we don’t get complacent and recognize that if we want to create a better Michigan, we need to stay engaged. The results of these midterms demonstrate that when voters turn out, they can bring about major changes. Michiganders understood the power and importance of their vote in this election, and that passion must be sustained.
Isabelle Schindler is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at email@example.com.