Many voters only focus on presidential elections when, in reality, it is state and local elections that have a larger impact on our daily lives. The importance of down-ballot elections is evident this year in Michigan, where voters will vote on everything from the governor to two of the University of Michigan Regents and a proposal to legalize abortion in Michigan. These elections are even more crucial given the dangerous anti-choice election deniers on the ballot for some of Michigan’s key elected positions. They are too important for young people to sit out, especially with important issues around abortion rights and preserving the integrity of our democratic institutions. That is why students need to use their voices and vote to play an active role in shaping the future that we want to see.
The top three elected officials in Michigan — the governor, attorney general and secretary of state — are all up for re-election this November. Despite the importance of these roles in governing our state, the Republican Party nominated extreme candidates with no political experience and dangerous histories of trying to usurp the will of Michigan voters in the 2020 election. Matthew DePerno, the Republican candidate for attorney general, rose to fame within the Republican Party for his work to “audit” the 2020 election, motivated by unfounded claims of voter fraud. DePerno is currently under investigation for allegedly accessing and tampering with a voting machine. Kristina Karamo, the Republican nominee for secretary of state, the office that runs elections in Michigan, is also an avowed election denier who gained prominence by claiming widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
The fact that both of these candidates are running for offices that deal directly with the rule of law and the administration of state elections is unbelievable. Their election would be detrimental to the fundamental bedrock of our democracy. In office, they would threaten the integrity of Michigan elections going into the 2024 election and elections after that.
Many of the top Republican candidates in Michigan this year have shown themselves to be radical and out of touch on the issue of reproductive rights, a topic that is of great concern for many students on campus. DePerno has supported restricting Plan B and incorrectly claimed that Plan B is being used after conception. Tudor Dixon, the Republican candidate for governor, has also embraced a severely anti-choice stance, stating that she only supports abortion to save the life of the mother. For so many young people, reproductive rights are a defining political issue.
The topic inspired LSA sophomore Olivia O’Connell to vote in this election. “I plan on voting because so many important and crucial human rights are at stake in this election,” O’Connell said. “As someone who’s passionate about social justice issues, I want to ensure that every single person can fully embrace their identity and exercise their personal liberties.”
The issue of reproductive justice is at the forefront of the midterms this November. Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade this summer, states now determine the legality of abortion within their borders. On the Michigan ballot this November is Proposal 3, which would codify abortion in the Michigan Constitution. For so many young people, reproductive rights are a defining political issue. As we face a future in which we have fewer rights than our parents did at our age, young voters in Michigan have the ability in this election to vote yes on Proposal 3 and ensure that reproductive rights are codified in the Michigan Constitution.
The passage of this proposal is not inevitable, as many religious organizations and outside groups have poured money into defeating Proposal 3. Many of their ads have been criticized for pushing alleged misinformation, such as claiming that the bill will allow young children to get puberty-blocking drugs without parental consent, a claim that has been disputed by Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit. This incorrect claim is an example of how anti-Prop 3 groups are trying to undermine this proposal through the propagation of false information.
One of the most important elections for students in particular is the election of the University’s Board of Regents. Regents play a critical role in the everyday life of U-M students, deciding everything from tuition prices to choosing University presidents and how the endowment is invested. Voting for the regents is one of the only ways that we as students can have a direct say in the actions of the larger school administration.
The regents’ election is an example of why it is so important that young people vote. Historically, the people who vote in midterm elections are older and less representative of the views of young people. Youth civic engagement has historically lagged compared to older Americans. However, in 2020, inspired youth voters came to the polls in record numbers. It is estimated that 50% of young people between the ages of 18 and 29 voted in the 2020 presidential election, which was an 11-point increase from 2016. While these numbers are a vast improvement, there is still significant room for further increases in turnout among young people.
We are so fortunate to be at a school that prioritizes civic engagement and makes it easy for students to vote. There are two satellite clerk’s offices on campus, one at the University of Michigan Museum of Art and one at the Duderstadt Center on North Campus, where students can go to register, update their addresses, get a ballot and vote. Both of these spaces have been designed with the intention of creating a calming and welcoming voting environment. The spaces even feature celebration stations that allow students to take pictures with their ballots and make celebratory voting buttons embracing the fun and excitement of voting.
There are friendly staff and student volunteers on-site who are able to assist with any voting-related questions. The general election is on Nov. 8, but voters can already vote via an absentee ballot or in person at their clerk’s office. All it takes is a few minutes, but it is so critically important that you vote. If young people go to the polls and make their voices heard, we can build a better and more just Michigan.
Isabelle Schindler is an Opinion Columnist & can be reached at email@example.com