In the News

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Following is a compilation of news articles, press releases, television segments, and podcasts regarding the League’s points of interest.


Defend Democracy Project
VIEW A RECORDING OF THE NEWS CONFERENCE HERE 

[June 8, 2022] Today, Leslie Dach, Defend Democracy Project; Debra Perlin, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington; Christina Schlitt, League of Women Voters of Michigan; Heaster Wheeler, NAACP Detroit; and Paul McCarthy, Grand Traverse County resident joined a press briefing hosted by the Defend Democracy Project to preview what Michiganders can expect to learn during public hearings to be held by the Select Committee starting on Thursday, June 9 at 8 pm (ET). The speakers discussed new polling on the public’s view of the events of January 6 and the plot to overturn the election and the potential criminal charges that could be faced by Trump and his allies.

Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans planned, promoted, and paid for the attacks on January 6 in an attempt to overturn the will of the voters – and they are not done yet. These hearings are of special interest to Michiganders, where Trump pressured state officials and arranged for fake electors to try to overturn the 2020 election. Trump called Monica Palmer, Chair of Wayne County’s Board of Canvassers to ask her to rescind to certify Biden’s victory in the county. The Trump campaign attempted to convince Antrim County’s prosecutor to seize voting machines for Trump representatives to ‘examine.’ In 2022, election conspiracy theorists mounted serious campaigns for Secretary of State, Governor, and Attorney General in a bid to control the state’s electoral apparatus. 

“Americans deserve to hear the truth about the months leading up to January 6, the events of that day, and the ongoing threat our country still faces,” said Defend Democracy Project co-chair Leslie Dach. “The attempt to overturn the will of the voters continues and the Committee will lay out the conspiracy to the American people in order to make sure the plot is stopped and the events of January 6 never happen again.”

“Our report finds that even before the hearings begin, we have significant evidence that Trump, Eastman, Clark, and Meadows violated federal and state laws and should be held criminally responsible,” said Debra Perlin, Policy Director, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. 

“Former President Trump’s coordinated criminal attempt to hijack our elections is nothing more than an ongoing plot to silence the voices of millions of Michiganders, including Black, Latino-Hispanic, senior and low-income voters,” said Heaster Wheeler, political education director of the Detroit Branch NAACP. “The overwhelming majority of Michiganders want voting to be more convenient, more accessible, and less restrictive so more Michiganders can vote in free and fair elections, and decide for themselves who they want in their government.”

“People, not politicians, should decide our government,” said Paul McCarthy, a Grand Traverse County resident who will host a watch event. “As an American and a patriot who cares deeply about the future of our country, I want to help raise awareness about the criminal effort to take away the voice of the voters and rig our elections to favor a very small group of people. I urge all Michiganders to follow these hearings so we can make sure no one can rig our elections, silence voters, and overturn an election in the future.”

“The League of Women Voters welcomes the bipartisanship and transparency of the Congressional committee investigating the actions of Jan. 6, 2021, and in sharing their findings with the American public,” said Christina Schlitt, co-president of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Michigan. “Through these hearings, voters will learn factual, evidence-based information. These hearings are critical to the future of our elections, and we encourage all Michigan voters to follow them.”

Watch the news conference here and learn more about the Defend Democracy Project here.


League of Women Voters of Michigan applauds the Michigan Court of Appeals for upholding petitioning laws

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: Wednesday, June 1, 2022
CONTACT: Sydney Smith, (586) 212-3103, ssmith@byrumfisk.com

LANSING – The League of Women Voters of Michigan is applauding the Michigan Board of State Canvassers and the Michigan Court of Appeals for their decisions to keep Perry Johnson and Michael Markey off the August ballot for Michigan governor after it was found that circulators forged signatures on their nominating petitions.

The League issued the following statements: 

“We applaud the Court of Appeals for coming to these decisions and upholding the law in Michigan,” said Christina Schlitt, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan. “Petitioning is our most direct form of democracy, and it’s critical to uphold the integrity of the petitioning process and Michigan laws. We’re hopeful the Michigan Supreme Court will reach the same decision if there are appeals.”

“The League is thankful to the Michigan Court of Appeals and its decisions to not allow the petitioning process to be tainted by forgery,” said Paula Bowman, co-president of the League. “It’s the candidate’s job to ensure the signatures being gathered on their behalf are valid. The League supports the upholding of our election laws that have worked for decades.”


Promote the Vote 2022 will help ensure every voice is heard, every Michigan vote is counted

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, April 11, 2022

LANSING – Supporters of Promote the Vote 2022 gathered virtually today to launch a petition gathering for the ballot initiative that will protect the fundamental right to vote.

Two virtual events featuring speakers from local and statewide organizations kicked off petitioning for 425,059 valid Michigan voter signatures to place Promote the Vote 2022 on the November 2022 ballot.

All Michigan voters should have confidence that their voice will be heard and their vote counted no matter what political party or candidate they support, where they live, or what they look like. The Promote the Vote 2022 ballot initiative will enhance the accessibility and security of our elections and ensure that every eligible voter can have their vote counted without intimidation or interference.

The following local and statewide organizations released statements about the launch:

“Promote the Vote is committed to cutting through the partisan noise to preserve, protect, and enhance voting rights for the people of Michigan because our democracy works best when every eligible voter can vote without the threat of harassment, intimidation, or interference,” said Micheal Davis, executive director of Promote the Vote.

“Voters Not Politicians is all in on this effort because Michigan voters – no matter who we are and who we support – want safe, secure, and convenient elections,” said Nancy Wang, executive director of Voters Not Politicians. “Hyper partisans and other ballot initiatives are trying to make voting harder in this state. This initiative is about what voters – not politicians, parties, or special interests – want.”

“No matter what political party or candidate you support, where you live or what you look like, Promote the Vote 2022 will help ensure all voices are heard and every vote counts,” said Christina Schlitt, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan. “We urge voters in Michigan to sign this important petition and protect voting rights for future generations.”

“The NAACP continues to stand ready and willing to protect voting rights at all levels of government, and we encourage everyone who believes in ‘Freedom and Justice for All’ to get involved with the Promote the Vote 2022 campaign and to Stand Up and be a voice in your community,” said Yvonne White, president of NAACP-MI.

“Michigan is blessed to have many vibrant rural communities, yet we know when it comes to participating in our democracy, it isn’t always convenient or accessible for folks in rural communities,” said Bob Thompson, president of the Michigan Farmers Union. “The common-sense solutions in the Promote the Vote 2022 ballot initiative would make voting more convenient for rural voters, along with many other voters who may have difficulty getting to the polls.”

“This ballot initiative will help ensure every vote is counted and every eligible voter can vote without harassment, intimidation, or interference,” said Erin Knott, executive director of Equality MI. “This is important to LGBTQ+ voters as it can be emotionally fraught for a transgender or non-binary person to cast a ballot and be challenged over their identification while trying to vote. This is especially true as many in the community face financial or legal roadblocks to updating documents as they transition.”

“Emgage is proud to endorse the Promote the Vote ballot initiative. Our goal here at Emgage is to politically empower our Muslim and minority communities, and this all starts with making voting easy and accessible for all Michiganders,” said Nada Al-Hanooti, executive director of Emgage Michigan. “This initiative is vital in achieving our goal to fully enfranchise our citizens and ensure that we are all equally represented.”

“When we head to our polling precinct or fill out our absentee ballot, we should be confident our voice is heard and our vote is counted no matter what we may look like or whatever part of the Great Lakes state we call home,” said Brooke Harris, voting rights manager for Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “This ballot initiative will ensure our elections are safe and secure while providing common-sense improvements to make voting more convenient and accessible.”

“Michigan voters should have confidence knowing that every eligible vote cast will be counted, regardless of what we look like or where we live,” said Loren Khogali, executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. “Voters must know that their voices will be heard at the ballot box. The ACLU of Michigan has been working with Promote the Vote since its founding in 2018, and we are excited to help announce their ballot initiative to further enshrine Michiganders’ voting rights in the state Constitution. The right to vote impacts every issue that we work on and is fundamental to protecting the civil rights and liberties that allow people to make their voices heard in Michigan.”

“Through GR PROACTIVE’S work, I’ve learned Michigan voters want and would benefit from the Promote the Vote 2022 ballot initiative,” said Kathi Harris, founder and executive director of GR PROACTIVE. “It will create more convenience, accessibility, and security for every voter. Promote the Vote 2022 works for us all.”

“Signing the petition and placing Promote the Vote 2022 on the November ballot will ensure all of us, including Michigan’s tribal communities, have a say in protecting our right to vote,” said Meredith Kennedy, executive director of Miigwech Inc. “All voters should be confident their voices will be heard when they head to the polls in person or vote absentee.”

“Fems for Democracy believes strongly in the power we hold when we come together to make positive change in our communities,” said Julie Campbell-Bode, board chair of Fems for Democracy. “Every Michigander deserves to have their voices heard and vote counted and that is why we’re proudly supporting Promote the Vote 2022.”

“Detroit Disability Power believes all people with disabilities deserve access to voting in each and every election,” said Ayesha Ghazi Edwin, deputy director of Detroit Disability Power. “When many voters had some type of difficulty voting in 2020, we know there’s a lot more work to be done to make our democracy accessible to all. People with disabilities deserve access to voting in each and every election, and governments should be making it easier to vote, not harder.”

May be an image of text that says 'PROTECT YOUR FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO VOTE. PROMOTE the Vote 2022'

Bureau of Elections Audit Confirms Michigan 2020 Elections are Accurate and Secure

Secretary Benson banner
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 4, 2022
Contact: Tracy Wimmer(517) 281-1876 Office of the Auditor General confirms the success of Michigan’s post-election audits

An audit of the Michigan Bureau of Elections released today by the Michigan Office of the Auditor General confirmed the effectiveness of the post-election audits carried out after the 2020 presidential election.

“By confirming the effectiveness of the most comprehensive post-election audit in state history, the Auditor General affirmed what has been demonstrated time and time again – Michigan’s 2020 election was secure and the outcome accurately reflects the will of the voters,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “The auditors recognized the tremendous work the Michigan Bureau of Elections and local election officials did to carry out more than 250 successful post-election audits by rating the bureau’s performance perhaps better than ever.”

The audit reviewed Bureau of Elections activities from May 1, 2019, to May 31, 2021, an exceptionally challenging time for all Michigan election officials, as they successfully implemented the new voting rights adopted by voters in 2018, and executed and quickly and accurately tabulated the highest turnout election in state history and in the midst of a pandemic. Additionally, when the current state audit was conducted, countless election officials in Michigan were enduring baseless attacks on their integrity, if not outright threats to their safety.

“The performance of Michigan’s clerks in the 2020 election and the months that followed was outstanding, especially when we take into consideration the national, coordinated and shameful effort to overturn the legitimate outcome of the election and undermine the clerks themselves,” said Benson. “The reality is that Michigan’s county, city and township clerks successfully shouldered significant responsibilities, endured unprecedented scrutiny and ensured the security and professional execution of the 2020 election and post-election audits.”

The Auditor General’s report also made some recommendations for process improvement, many of which have already been implemented by the Bureau of Elections. For example, the bureau has now created a post-election audit training certification program and certified the county election official in 82 of 83 counties. The bureau has also implemented a new program to periodically reconcile driver and voter lists to ensure data quality, supplementing the daily matching that already occurs.

The audit also included recommendations for legislative action, many of which have been advocated for by Secretary Benson and election clerks for some time. Such recommendations include providing time to pre-process absentee ballots prior to Election Day and extending the post-election canvassing period. Secretary Benson included both provisions in her February 2021 legislative agenda and called on the state Legislature then to take action to support clerks and strengthen Michigan’s election system.

Overall, the Auditor General found the bureau’s performance was effective, sufficient, or sufficient with exceptions in all areas that were reviewed. This marks an improvement over the bureau’s previous audit, which reviewed its operations starting in 2016 and found one area to be only moderately effective. 

LWVMI’s Opposition to “Unlock MI 2.0” Initiative


From Bridge Magazine ⏤ “2022 Michigan petition drives tracker: What to know about election proposals”

[February 3, 2022] Michigan could likely see more than a dozen proposals on the November ballot. To understand these proposals, their background, and what they seek to gain, read a recent issue of bridgemi.com wherein Yue Stella Yu assembled “a primer of ballot proposals explaining what they would change, where they stand in the process, major funders and arguments surrounding them.”

Because “Michigan law allows the Legislature to adopt petitions that gather enough signatures into law, some of the measures may never even make it to voters, including ones to change health regulations, require ID to vote and create a tax credit scholarship program for private schools.”  With that in mind, Yu included an explanation of how petitions work in Michigan.

Read Yu’s article in its entity here.


LWVMI and Voting Rights Advocates File Lawsuit Against MICRC


Detroit News ⏤ “Lawsuit: State House Map Unfair to Dems”

[February 1, 2022] In today’s Detroit News, Clara Hendrickson and Dave Boucher write about a “coalition of voting rights advocacy groups [the LWVMI being one of them] who filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the new Michigan House of Representatives voting districts adopted by the state’s redistricting commission, alleging that the new map provides an unfair advantage to Republicans.”

Read the full article here.


Pro-Voter Ballot Initiation Launches in MI

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

News from Promote the Vote 2022

January 31, 2022
Contact: Lynna Kaucheck, lynna@progressmichigan.org

Pro-Voter Ballot Initiative Launches in Michigan

A new ballot initiative will modernize elections and create a voting system that works for everyone

MICHIGAN – Today, Promote the Vote 2022 launched a ballot initiative to improve both security and access to the polls in Michigan. Partners in the campaign gathered for a virtual press conference as part of the campaign launch.

“This initiative is to ensure that our elections are secure and accessible and that voters can vote free from harassment, intimidation, and interference,” said Khalilah Spencer, board president of Promote the Vote. “Voter freedom and power are critical to the success of our state and our country. We must create a voting system that provides secure options for voters, equitable access to the polls, and ensures all our voices are heard when it comes time to vote.”

The 2020 election was the most secure and accurate on record, and the voters of Michigan turned out in record numbers. Promote the Vote 2022 picks up where Proposal 3 of 2018 left off by taking the extra steps necessary to create a voting system that works for everyone and making sure that voting is a fundamental right enshrined in our state constitution.

“Promote the Vote 2022 provides common-sense voting policies to move Michigan forward,” said Christina Schlitt, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan. “Michiganders want secure and accessible elections, we want people to be able to vote without fear of intimidation, and we want to be confident that our votes will be counted. This ballot initiative takes a great step towards modernizing our elections and protecting our freedom to vote.”

The initiative includes public funding and resources to help local election officials do their jobs including funding for postage for absentee ballots and ballot tracking and secure ballot dropboxes for every 15,000 voters in a municipality. The initiative will also preserve the authority of local governments to accept funding from publicly disclosed, public and charitable sources.

“It’s critical that our city and township clerks have the resources they need to securely and accessibly run our elections,” said Aghogho Edevbie, Michigan state director for All Voting is Local. “Local election officials across Michigan rely on donated spaces for polling locations, and while other ballot initiatives want to take away this essential service, this proposal would empower Michigan voters by securing this and other critical resources for local clerks to effectively do their jobs.”

Promote the Vote 2022 will increase accessibility by creating a true early voting system, with nine days of early, in-person voting where voters will be able to feed their ballot into a tabulator. The initiative will also allow voters to request that an absentee ballot be mailed to them for all future elections, without having to apply each time as long as the voter remains qualified to vote.

“A voting system that works for everyone means that voters have options when it comes time to cast their ballot,” said Shelli Weisberg, political director for ACLU of Michigan. “Creating a true early voting system means busy working parents have more options for how and when to vote and giving our military families the time that they need to return their ballots is critical to ensuring that every voter can cast their vote and that every ballot is counted.”

The initiative would also ensure that the outcome of Michigan elections is determined solely by the votes cast by Michigan voters by directing the Board of Canvassers to certify election results based on a count of votes cast and clearly establishing that the Board of Canvassers is responsible for certifying the results of an election.

“Voters should decide the outcome of our elections, not politicians,” said Nancy Wang, executive director of Voters Not Politicians. “Unlike other ballot proposals that would take away the rights already afforded voters; this proposal gives voters more secure options for voting in Michigan. And, unlike other ballot initiatives that intend to proceed through the legislature and avoid a vote of the people, our initiative will be on the ballot this November so that voters, not politicians, decide the future of elections in Michigan.”


LWVMI Calls for Partisan Fairness in Redistricting Process

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: Friday, Jan. 28, 2022
CONTACT: Sydney Smith, (586) 212-3103, ssmith@byrumfisk.com

League of Women Voters of Michigan, voting rights advocates, to file a lawsuit against MICRC

Group calls for partisan fairness in redistricting process

LANSING – The League of Women Voters of Michigan, along with a coalition of voting rights advocates, today called for partisan fairness in Michigan’s redistricting process.

The coalition discussed its goals and announced that it is filing legal action to ensure that the State House map is fair from a partisan perspective.

“Unfair, biased maps run counter to what voters demanded when they voted in favor of Proposal 2 in 2018 and established the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission,” said Christina Schlitt, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan. “The approved House map obviously shows partisan bias based on the Commission’s own analysis and should be replaced with a fairer map.”

The League of Women Voters of Michigan was heavily involved in the redistricting process, engaging in educational outreach and helping ensure every Michigan voter had a voice. Last spring, local Leagues hosted over 30 town halls to educate voters about the MICRC, and in the fall the Michigan League hosted eight regional town halls to discuss the proposed maps. The League also offered training on Communities of Interest.

“For the past 10 years, partisan gerrymandering has stripped rights from voters and prevented their fair representation in the U.S. Congress and Michigan Legislature,” said Susan Smith, vice president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan. “Partisan fairness measures must be as close to zero as possible because these maps will influence our elections for the next decade.”

Speakers at the press conference also included those from Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote – Michigan and Detroit Action. The coalition’s lawsuit that includes other plaintiffs will be filed in the Michigan Supreme Court next week.

View a recording of the press conference here.


Tik Tok: Stephen Colbert’s Shoutout to LWV

@gg_in_dc

Once again, the League of Women Voters comes through to face democracy. #demcracy #LWV #tiktok #women #womenruletheworld

♬ original sound – Virginia K
TikTok video

US Senate Fails to Advance Voting Rights Bill

[January 21, 2022 ⏤ WASHINGTON] Today the League of Women Voters of the United States CEO Virginia Kase Solomón issued the following statement on the Senate vote on voting rights: 

“It is shameful the US Senate was unable to move forward today on the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act. Once again, the Senate blocked critical legislation to protect the right to vote. History will look back at this moment and judge those who chose special interests over our democracy.  There are several states that have already introduced dangerous anti-voter bills to suppress the voices of the people. Without federal legislation, our democracy will suffer.  

Despite today’s vote, this fight is not yet over. We will not back down, and we will not quit until every voter can safely participate in free and fair elections. We will continue our fight until all voters, especially Black, brown, Indigenous communities have their voices heard. Democracy is not just for the few, but it is owed to everyone, which is why we must protect the right to vote at all costs.”  


Bridge Magazine ⏤ “Michigan clerks: Read the fine print of Secure MI Vote. It could ban volunteers.”

[October 21, 2021] Johnathan Oosting (bridgemi.com) writes “The Secure MI Vote initiative, which critics have blasted as attempted suppression because it would tighten voter identification rules, would also bar local clerks from accepting direct funding or free “in-kind” assistance for election-related activities from individuals or non-governmental entities.”


Michigan Chronicle interviews LWV Detroit President Rhonda Craig Regarding Get Out The Vote

[August 19, 2021] Megan Kirk writes about

Michigan Chronicle (August 19, 2021)
Michigan Chronicle

PBS Newshour Weekend [September 25, 2021]

ICYMI: PBS Newshour Weekend aired a piece on Michigan’s independent redistricting. LWVMI provided information for the segment.

Watch the recording here: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/in-michigan-an-effort-to-take-politics-out-of-redistricting.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021 
CONTACT: Sydney Smith, (586) 212-3103, ssmith@byrumfisk.com

LANSING – Legal experts across Michigan today discussed Michigan’s non-delegation doctrine during a virtual panel event sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Michigan.

The non-delegation doctrine covers the limiting of one branch of government’s authority over another. Experts discussed the doctrine in the context of emergency orders put in place during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This discussion on the non-delegation doctrine is important for the legal community because we remain in unprecedented times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and legislation surrounding the doctrine could have a profound impact on how our state is affected,” said Christina Schlitt, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan. “The League is proud to sponsor educational events like today’s panel in order to inform those who can affect change in our state.”

Michael Sant’Ambrogio, professor of law and associate dean for research at the Michigan State University College of Law, moderated the panel. Expert panelists included former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly; John D. Pirich, retired partner at Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn and current adjunct professor at the MSU College of Law; and Julian Davis Mortenson, professor of law and constitutional scholar at the University of Michigan.


Panelists discussed the origin and history of federal and state non-delegation doctrines, orders issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued during the COVID-19 pandemic, and why the non-delegation doctrine matters.

“For more than 100 years, the League of Women Voters of Michigan has been a nonpartisan organization working on vital issues of concern to voters, and that includes today’s discussion,” said Paula Bowman, co-president of the League. “Everyone should have the information they need to participate in our democracy.”

A recording of the virtual panel is available on Zoom. Click the link below and use Passcode: $0&j5S?M to view the recording:
https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/a-fiWPto8utjiqwPRIfs8FZXZ-HdE2LYtq1mLQKP0LDMKqK5uPGOJwcC2ld5iw0a.P-rrqMl5toQbsdj2 



Toronto Paper Features Michigan

Towards the presidential 

These Michigan women

PHOTO JOHN FLESHER, ASSOCIATED PRESS ⏤ Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer (right) campaigning in Traverse City on October 9

Last spring, President Donald Trump spoke with contempt of “this woman in Michigan”, never saying the name of Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who had criticized her handling of the pandemic. Far from undermining the credibility of the governor, the expression has become a mark of pride in a state where the vote of the suburbs, and particularly that of women, will be decisive.

The political awakening of a woman from the suburbs

PHOTO JUDITH LACHAPELLE ⏤ Paula Martinos-Mantay (Royal Oak, MI) never believed in being actively involved in politics, but Donald Trump’s election in 2016 changed everything.

Detroit – On the evening of November 8, 2016, Paula Martinos-Mantay watched the election results, petrified in front of her TV. The next day, this resident of a Detroit suburb who had never campaigned in her life vowed that she would do anything to prevent the re-election of Donald Trump.

What Paula Martinos-Mantay has not forgotten about the last presidential elections is the day after.

Still stunned by the result of the day before, she was at the counter of the UPS store that she then ran with her husband, in the suburbs of Detroit. A customer, a regular, entered. He was carrying a pro-Trump poster that he wanted to show her, victorious. “He boasted that he was from that ‘silent white suburban majority’, and that he was sick of black presidents.… I was enraged. He was proud to tell me that, in the face!”

That day, she said, she vowed to herself that she would do everything in her power to prevent the re-election of Donald Trump. “And God knows it’s been four long years…. I still had black hair back then!” 

She laughs and sighs at the same time. At the time of our meeting, in a café in Royal Oak, a suburb of Detroit, there were still 45 days until the election. Paula Martinos-Mantay is tired. The last few years have been intense, especially since the sale of her businesses, which allowed her to devote herself entirely to political activism.

PHOTO JUDITH LACHAPELLE, THE PRESS ⏤ A call to vote in Royal Oak, a suburb of Detroit

Originally from Ontario, Paula Martinos-Mantay has lived in the United States for 35 years. Her two children, now young adults, were born here. She decided to take her American citizenship when George W. Bush was elected in 2000. “I didn’t care until Bush was elected. The election of Barack Obama was a moment of grace. I jumped for joy when he was elected,” she recalls. I was happy that W. Bush was gone. I was excited about the change that was coming in this country. I was exalted!”

But that happy memory has faded over time. “When I think about it, I was a bit like this man with his sign in my shop, in 2016….” Would her exuberant joy have been perceived as arrogance by the Republicans around here? Yes. “It was not my intention. What I was saying was simply: ‘My candidate won! It’s great!’ But when I think back, I can still see the hostile look on their faces.”

After two terms of Barack Obama, the election of Hillary Clinton in 2016 was no doubt in her mind. That year, she participated from afar in the Democratic campaign. “Every week I sent a little money. I gave as much money as I could. I had no doubts about his election. I never thought about knocking on doors, making phone calls. I didn’t know anything about it.”

PHOTO JUDITH LACHAPELLE, THE PRESS ⏤ Paula Martinos-Mantay

And Hillary lost. When Paula Martinos-Mantay recovered from the shock, she took an interest in politics. She was involved in founding StateWide Indivisible Michigan, an organization that seeks to elect Democrats to the state House of Representatives to overthrow the Republican majority. “Before, I didn’t even know who my representative on the Michigan Capitol was. Today I know him personally. I also know my congressional representative in Washington. I helped get him elected. I can phone him if I want.”

“In fact,” she said, “no one could have said in November 2016 that I would be sitting today with you.”

A women’s movement

If there’s one thing she can thank Donald Trump for, says the activist, it’s for pushing her to join a network of engaged citizens where she has forged valuable bonds. “These are organizations where we find a majority of women, and most of whom got involved like me after 2016. They realized like me that if we didn’t do anything, we were the ones to blame if it is still in office after these elections.”

PHOTO JUDITH LACHAPELLE, THE PRESS ⏤ Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer

In Michigan, as in many states, women constitute a key electorate. Donald Trump has sometimes addressed “suburban housewives” in his numerous calls to avoid the “destruction” of their cities with the demonstrations of the Black Lives Matter movement. But American women voters do not seem to share his opinion. In an NPR/PBS poll released at the end of June, 65% of these suburban women said they were dissatisfied with the president’s job. In Michigan, according to a Detroit Free Press poll in September, only 37% of women had a favorable opinion of Trump, while 51% of Michigan women voted for him in 2016.

Why won’t some of those women who voted for Trump do so this year? Perhaps because many of the privileged simply cannot close their eyes anymore, believes Paula Martinos-Mantay. “If you’re a white woman from the suburbs, you don’t live on racial profiling, you live comfortably, there is food on the table, you have a roof over your heads, you and your husband probably have a telecommuting job. You probably bought a laptop for your children to attend school remotely during the pandemic,” she lists.

And in Michigan, in particular, women have been directly questioned in recent months. In addition to the now-famous “this woman from Michigan” contemptuously launched by Donald Trump in the spring to designate her, Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s opponents usually use offensive language against her. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has also received a bunch of insults from President Trump on Twitter.

“This man is so afraid of strong women,” says Paula Martinos-Mantay. She and her companions do not plan to rest on the morning of November 4. “If Republicans win, anyone who doesn’t want Trump is going to take to the streets. If the Democrats win, armed lunatics, the ones we fear the most, will come out.”

PHOTO JEFF KOWALSKY, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE ARCHIVES⏤Protesters gathered at the Michigan Capitol (Lansing) last May to denounce Gov. Whitmer’s confinement decreed

As if to confirm its fears, the FBI just arrested a few days later 13 militiamen linked to a far-right group who planned to kidnap Governor Whitmer and government officials before the presidential election.

“We don’t take anything for granted. But I feel that things are moving in our direction, says Paula Martinos-Mantay. In Michigan, we lost by 10,704 votes in 2016. That number is tattooed in my head. At each political meeting in which I have participated since 2016, I write the number: 10,704. That is two votes per polling station. If I could have done something, I would have changed that.”

Other women at the front

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution that guarantees and protects women’s right to vote. The League of Women Voters (LWV), a non-partisan organization founded by suffragists in 1920, remains active in promoting the right to vote for all. We met with their representatives in Michigan.

Rhonda Craig (Detroit)
PHOTO JUDITH LACHAPELLE, THE PRESS ⏤ Rhonda Craig, Detroit League of Women Voters

“According to what we hear, there are three times as many people who have registered this year on the electoral lists. I believe there will also be a higher turnout, at least here in Detroit. I see the older generations putting pressure on the young about the importance of going to vote. And that’s what I tell grandparents, to tell their grandchildren about it. They experienced the restrictions on the right to vote, especially African Americans. They know that voting is one way to reduce racial discrimination. They remember a time when they had a battle just for the right to vote. So what they say is: vote, because there are people who don’t want you to vote.”

Courtney Winell (Grand Rapids), Fran Eckenrode and MerriKay Oleen-Burkey (Kalamazoo)
PHOTO JUDITH LACHAPELLE ⏤ Courtney Winell, Fran Eckenrode & MerriKay Oleen-Burkey

“I think people are always finding new ways to restrict the right to vote, as the old ones no longer work,” says Fran Eckenrode. She cites the example of Georgia, where authorities have been criticized for purging thousands of names from electoral rolls before the governor’s election in 2018. “An estimated 80% of the names withdrawn were people of color. We don’t know why it fell on them. But the race was close, and that could have affected the result. The three women choose their words carefully, insisting that their fight is non-partisan, but acknowledging that one “certain party” is more likely than the other to put obstacles in the way of the polling station. Youngest member of the group, Courtney Winell decided to join the LWV four years ago.”Yes, it’s around the time of the 2016 election…, she laughs. I felt at this point that I had to do more.”

Elders courted

In Michigan, senior voters are in the crosshairs of Democrats, says political scientist Corwin Smidt. In 2016, voters over 65 in Michigan were slightly more likely to choose Republicans than Democrats. “But this year, in this segment, Joe Biden is doing as well as Trump, if not better. This age group makes up a good portion of Michigan’s electorate, about 30% – Michigan is one of the oldest states in the country. “- Judith Lachapelle, La Presse

Two counties that matter

PHOTO JUDITH LACHAPELLE ⏤ Pro-Trump posters in Cass County, southwest Michigan

In Michigan, as elsewhere in the country, a gulf separates Democratic towns from the Republican countryside. A glance at two counties to watch.

Kent: the coveted

Sparta, Michigan – On the list of counties to watch nationwide, Kent is on most radar. The NBC network even wondered, last November, if it was not the only county to watch in the whole country, the one that would set the tone for the election.

Kent County has a large city, Grand Rapids (200,000 people), and its growing suburbs, as well as a rural portion. Republicans have won here since 1968 – with one small exception for Barack Obama in 2008. The county has always been seen as dark red, like the apples that are the pride of the village of Sparta, where Russell Yonkers lives.

PHOTO JUDITH LACHAPELLE ⏤ Pro-Biden flags Russell Yonkers hung outside his house

His house does not go unnoticed: large blue flags flutter in the wind, the rare democratic colors that we meet in the area. “You can’t imagine how many people stop to ask me where they can get it!” he said, sitting down on the porch.

PHOTO JUDITH LACHAPELLE ⏤ Russell Yonkers

In 2016, Donald Trump won Kent County with a comfortable 10,000 vote lead. Two years later, in the midterm elections, Kent’s enthusiasm for Republican elected officials had melted. Kent not only preferred a Democratic Senate candidate (Republican John James was ultimately elected), but he also chose a Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, for the first time in decades.

On closer inspection, then, Kent isn’t as red as it once was. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won 62% of the vote in Grand Rapids. And like many American cities, suburbs like Wyoming and Kentwood are slowly turning blue as city dwellers move there.

The Democrats are not hiding it: Kent is within their reach and they are doing it all.

In the middle of the apple country, Sparta is still very republican. Russell Yonkers would be surprised if his village changed its allegiance this fall as he himself did in 2016. A Republican since always, he could not bear to see Donald Trump become the leader of the party. “But with Hillary Clinton, the Democrats had chosen the candidate least likely to be elected,” said the one who voted for her. Joe Biden, he says, doesn’t arouse as much opposition, and despite the din of Trumpist caravans passing through his village on weekends, he believes many of Kent’s silent voters do not share the enthusiasm displayed by their neighbors. “I see the Democrats around me are nervous. But I don’t believe there are more Trump supporters. They are just louder.”

Cass: the barometer

Vandalia, Michigan – While Kent County is getting a lot of attention from observers, Cass’s has gone largely unnoticed. And yet, says Corwin Smidt, professor of political science at the University of Michigan, this southwestern county is Michigan’s county barometer par excellence.

“The problem with Kent is that the city of Grand Rapids is moving in the opposite direction to the rest of the state,” says Corwin Smidt. The economic prosperity there is not representative of what is happening elsewhere in the state.”

PHOTO JUDITH LACHAPELLE, THE PRESS ⏤ Election posters in Cass County

The proportion of the population with a graduate degree is also higher than elsewhere. Largely rural Cass County, dotted with small working-class towns whose Main Streets have often seen better days, is more representative of Michigan as a whole. To find out what the “Michiganders” think about the election, suggests Professor Smidt, you have to ask Cass voters.

“Is that so?”, wondered Earl Dean, met in front of his house in the municipality of Vandalia, three hours drive west of Detroit. On his lawn, he planted Biden posters. There were no Democratic posters in 2016. In fact, in the last election, Earl Dean didn’t vote at all. “Because I never thought Trump would be elected!” He laughs. I regret it since that day.”

PHOTO JUDITH LACHAPELLE, THE PRESS ⏤ Earl Dean

He is not the only one who did not exercise his right to vote in 2016. That year, 74% of Michiganders registered to vote, but only 64% exercised their right. In 2016, 61% of voters in Cass County voted for Donald Trump.

What has insulted Earl Dean the most in the past four years? The way Donald Trump publicly disowned his own intelligence services in the investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election campaign.

Joe Biden was not his favorite candidate in the primaries; he preferred Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, just across the border. “But that’s mostly because he’s an army veteran, too. He only has good words for Mr. Biden’s running mate. “Kamala Harris will be the best vice-president we have had in years. She’s not afraid to stand up and say it the way it is. “

A little further north, near Marcellus, Bruce and Jennifer Dean (not related to Earl Dean) will vote for Donald Trump, like in 2016. “I’m making more money than before,” says Bruce Dean, who works as packer in a warehouse, before listing everything he likes about Republicans. Gasoline costs less, they are against abortion, they have reduced taxes, they are attacking China….”

PHOTO JUDITH LACHAPELLE, THE PRESS ⏤ Bruce and Jennifer Dean

“I think Joe Biden doesn’t have the mental capacity to be president,” adds Bruce Dean. And I don’t believe what the polls say either. Polls which, since the start of the campaign, pretty much all show Joe Biden’s lead in Michigan. And in the county barometer of Cass? Hard to predict, says Earl Dean. To the eye, the Trump signs are more prominent than the Biden signs. “But I don’t think he’s as popular as he was.”

________________________

Judith Lachapelle, Reporter, La Presse ・750 Boulevard Saint-Laurent Montreal H2Y 2Z4 ・ Office: 514 285-7000 poste 4821 | Cell: 514 707-2756 www.lapresse.ca jlachapelle@lapresse.ca ・Twitter: @j_lachapelle

For the original version of this article in French: https://www.lapresse.ca/international/etats-unis/2020-10-18/vers-la-presidentielle/ces-femmes-du-michigan.php


Broadcast of MI State Rep Stephanie A. Young with LWV Detroit President Rhonda Craig (July 12, 2017)

MI State Representative Stephanie A. Young (8th House District) hosts a monthly Community Conversations podcast, sharing her Capitol work with constituents. Watch the broadcast with LWV Detroit President Rhonda Craig:

https://fb.watch/9GlRCjjfco/