Commentary

Susan J. Demas: Will your vote count in 2024? It depends who wins Michigan in 2022.

October 11, 2022 3:07 am

GOP nominees (L-R): Tudor Dixon for governor, Matt DePerno for attorney general and Kristina Karamo for secretary of state | Graphic using Andrew Roth and Allison R. Donahue photos

It’s been a psychically scarring last few years between the pandemic, a full-blown insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the specter of a nuclear-charged war in Ukraine. 

And we’ve all become inured to scaremongering political ads and election year hyperbole.

But the truth is, democracy is on the ballot on Nov. 8.

In Michigan, the GOP nominees running for the state’s top three offices — Tudor Dixon for governor, Matt DePerno for attorney general and Kristina Karamo for secretary of state — all deny the results of the 2020 presidential election that former President Donald Trump lost.

While asking candidates who won the 2020 election is important just to determine their trustworthiness and basic grip on reality, it raises a bigger issue: What would they do with the enormous power they’d have in office over future elections? The disturbing answer is that these Republicans won’t commit to accepting the results of this or future elections (if their party loses).

No, this isn’t just where partisan politics is today. Their three Democratic opponents — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson — have said they will accept this and future election results.

What would they do with the enormous power they’d have in office over future elections? The disturbing answer is that these Republicans won’t commit to accepting the results of this or future elections (if their party loses).

– Susan J. Demas

There’s a lot that Republicans occupying any of Michigan’s top three offices could do to tip the scale to the GOP in 2024, when we’re expected to, once again, be a pivotal state. If Democrats win in two years, the odds seem pretty good that the trio of Trump-endorsed election deniers can’t be counted on to do their jobs fairly. 

What does that mean for voters? Well, if Dixon, DePerno and Karamo are running the show, your vote for Republicans will definitely count. If you vote Democratic, well, best of luck. 

In 2020, there was a full-scale GOP effort to simply chuck the results of Michigan’s largest county, Wayne, which is home to majority-Black Detroit and voted heavily for President Joe Biden. If Republicans are in power, past is probably prologue.

We’re not alone in Michigan. More than 60% of the country will have an election denier on the ballot this fall. That’s already done damage by shaking faith in elections — and it has enormous implications for 2024.

There’s a reason why so many experts have warned that 2022 could be our last shot at free and fair elections.

That’s because more and more Republicans have decided that they know what’s best for the country and voters can’t be trusted. In short, they’ve given up on democracy.

Trump is the darkest example — he couldn’t accept he lost the 2020 election to Biden fair and square and tried every way to stay in power. At Trump’s urging, Jan. 6 rioters tried to stop Congress from certifying his loss on Jan. 6, desecrating the Capitol, terrifying staff and lawmakers in the building and leaving five people dead. 

Even after the bloodshed and madness, 147 Republicans — including three Michigan House members, Jack Bergman, Lisa McClain and Tim Walberg — refused to certify Biden’s victory in key states.

In 2022, Michigan has eight Republicans running for Congress who are election deniers and thus can’t be counted on to certify presidential elections that their party loses. And there are roughly 30 Republicans vying for the Michigan Legislature who are election deniers, including three who were at the Jan. 6 riot.

The pro-Trump insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021 | Alex Kent

The Trump coup ultimately failed, but Republican leaders still keep signing on to cockamamie lawsuits to throw out the results of the 2020 election because they don’t care if your vote counts.

And we’ve seen the same pattern in the runup to the 2022 midterms.

In Michigan, Republicans have done everything in their power to stop voters from weighing in on two measures for voting and abortion rights.

Promote the Vote, or Proposal 2, would expand voting rights that have been under attack since the 2020 election and allow nine days of early voting, require ballot drop-off boxes for every 15,000 voters, allow voters to register for absentee ballots for all future elections and more.

Reproductive Freedom for All (RFFA), or Proposal 3, would enshrine Michiganders’ right to make and carry out decisions relating to pregnancy, including abortion, birth control, prenatal care and childbirth in the Constitution and wipe out the state’s 1931 abortion ban law.

Both proposals collected thousands more signatures than were required to get on the ballot — RFFA broke the state record — and have shown solid support in polling.

Faced with the terrifying prospect that voters might decide to protect their basic rights, right-wing groups weren’t having it. They challenged the petitions and convinced the Republicans on a state elections board to boot the proposals from the ballot. 

The Michigan Supreme Court had to step in at the last minute just to ensure that voters would have their say on Nov. 8.

More and more Republicans have decided that they know what’s best for the country and voters can’t be trusted. In short, they’ve given up on democracy.

– Susan J. Demas

But if it were up to Republicans, we would have been denied direct democracy on two of the biggest issues facing Michiganders today, something Chief Justice Bridget McCormack remarked “seems to be disappointing evidence of the weakened state of our polity.”

Now we have the choice to vote on these measures and those who will be overseeing our elections, from the governor to members of Congress. There’s a lot at stake for our state and our country.

I know it’s tempting to dismiss grave threats to democracy as alarmism. After all, our basic existence has become exhausting in recent years. But this isn’t something to sleep on.

A lot of folks find political parties annoying, at best, and think straight-ticket voting seems like a knee-jerk idea. But we’re living in a time when there’s only one party that’s committed to upholding democracy.

This may not be the choice we want or deserve, but this is where we’re at in America today. And it sure beats the prospect of not having any real choice at all.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 22-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQ+ people, the state budget, the economy and more. She previously served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 90 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 5,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 80 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two kids along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.

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