Election 2014

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It’s already been a month since Election Day, but Democrats in Michigan are continuing to sort out just what happened.

It’s fair to say it wasn’t all bad for Democrats. 

Michigan had the lowest turnout in a Governor’s race this year since the John Engler-Geoffrey Fieger face-off of 1998. And, while a lot of Republicans sat out this year, it was mostly Democrats who stayed home in droves on Election Day.

So, despite the low turnout, conservatives can rejoice because Republicans will remain in control in Lansing for at least the next two years. But progressives can, perhaps, find some solace in the fact that getting initiatives and challenges on the ballot will be easier than it has been in 16 years.

(Shout-out to the Lansing political consulting firm Sterling Corporation and its attorney Bob LaBrandt for being the first to point this out.)

Proposals are by and large put on the ballot by petition drives. (The Legislature can also put questions on the ballot.)

The number of signatures required to get a petition on the ballot is based on the number of people who voted in the previous election for governor. So, fewer voters in 2014 means fewer signatures needed to get on the ballot in 2016.

Freshman year in Congress isn't that different from freshman year in college.

Michigan has five new "rookie representatives-elect" that now have to worry about making new friends, finding a place to live, and even taking part in a freshman orientation before they can begin their work.

We talked to Sheryl Gay Stolberg, author of the New York Times piece After Victory Laps, Settling In As Rookies, about what new Congressional members go through during the transition to Washington.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Shiawassee County Commissioners could authorize laying off half the sheriff’s department this week.

Last week, voters rejected a millage hike that would have paid to keep the department funded. The millage was voted down 59% to 41%.

Now 14 to 16 deputies will likely get pink slips by the end of the year.     

Sheriff George Braidwood says if the cuts go through he will have no deputies to respond to traffic accidents or other emergencies.

“I’m scared.  I really am,” says Braidwood. “I think this is going to be devastating.”

Map showing counties with the highest and lowest voter turnout.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The overall voter turnout for Michigan was a bit underwhelming this election cycle - less than half of those people eligible to vote in Michigan showed up at the polls on Election Day.

But what about individual counties? Which had the best voter turnout, and which had the worst?

Here's what we found from data provided by the office of the Michigan Secretary of State:

Counties with lowest voter turnout:

Michigan lawmakers chose new leaders after the recent elections.
Matt Katzenberger / flickr.com

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers' first order of business after the election was picking new leaders.

Republicans on Thursday chose Arlan Meekhof to lead the Senate for the next four years. The 54-year-old from West Olive is best known for sponsoring one of Michigan's two right-to-work laws that made union fees voluntary.

Rep. Kevin Cotter of Mount Pleasant was chosen to be Speaker of the House. Al Pscholka of Stevensville also sought the speakership but dropped his bid in exchange for being named to chair the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Rep. Tim Greimel of Auburn Hills will continue as House Democrats' leader. Senate Democrats picked Sen. Jim Ananich of Flint to succeed Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing.  

In January, Republicans will have 63-47 and 27-11 edges in the House and Senate.

A Republican wave on Tuesday.

Or was it? In Michigan, there is plenty of evidence that it was not, despite being a very good year for Republicans nationally.

More votes, less seats

No doubt there were a lot of Republican victories in the races for governor and the Legislature. But Rick Snyder’s 51 percent can’t be described as a blowout. A lot of the races in swing states were also quite close.

In fact, Democrats actually won more votes in state House races than Republicans. Democrats won more votes but got few seats.

In the 110 state House races, Democrats won 50.9 percent of the total vote. Republicans in aggregate got 48.9. Yes, Republicans won 63 seats but is 48.9 percent of the vote really a “wave”?

Dems win big in education

With one exception, Democrats swept the education boards - the state Board of education and the boards for Michigan State, Wayne State and the University of Michigan. That matters because, even though they are elected positions, almost no one knows who these candidates are.

That makes these board elections some of the most-reliable measures of core party strength - the stalwart yellow dog Democrats, rock-ribbed Republicans straight party ballot voters.

We should note, too, that the one exception is where a Green Party candidate ran a pretty aggressive campaign in the Spartans’ home turf of Lansing and East Lansing. That very well may have siphoned off enough votes from the Democrat to tip the race in the other direction.

Theresa Thompson / Flickr

Hahaha! No. We're just kidding. 

It's really hard. 

But we were serious about there being only two steps. 

We looked into this question as part of our MI Curious project - people send in their questions about Michigan or its people, questions are put up for a vote, then we look into the winning question.

This time, the winning question came from Michael Bieri.

"What would it take to realistically end gerrymanding in Michigan?" 

Earlier this week, when he won his second term, Governor Rick Snyder thanked his family, he thanked his supporters and he gave a shout-out to the Great Lakes.

“I still like to remind my fellow governors, four out of five Great Lakes prefer Michigan,” he joked.

So what do policy experts expect from Snyder in his next term?

James Clift is with the Michigan Environmental Council.

"I think what we’ve got is a confluence of a number of things coming to a head,” he says.

He says energy will be a big issue for Snyder.

“Is there going to be enough power in this region of the country to serve our needs in the upcoming years? Some federal regulations coming into play, with the utilities making some very large decisions about the energy future, and the clean energy legislation plateauing off in 2015.”

Clift is talking about our renewable portfolio standard. It requires Michigan utilities to get 10 percent of their electricity sales from renewable sources by 2015.

Snyder has said he’d like to see that standard raised – as long as it makes business sense.

Flag at half-staff near the Capitol in Lansing.
Matt Katzenberger / Flickr

Michigan voters re-elected Republican Governor Rick Snyder for another term in office. Democrat Gary Peters also won his bid for U.S. Senate beating out Republican Terri Lynn Land.

Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, joined me to talk about Michigan's election results. Here's our conversation:

Ups and downs in voter turnout in Michigan.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The number we're talking about is the percentage of the population old enough to vote.

Less than half of those people showed up at the polls on Election Day in Michigan.

Voter turnout for this year's election came in at 41.6%. In Michigan's last gubernatorial election four years ago, 42.9% of the voting age population turned up to vote.

Michigan's secretary of state's office reports that about 3.2 million votes were cast Tuesday - around 83,000 fewer than in the 2010 midterm election.

To find a lower turnout stat for midterm or presidential elections, you have to go back to 1990 in Michigan.

Here's a chart showing the history of voter turnout in Michigan since 1948. It shows gubernatorial election years and presidential election years. Presidential elections traditionally draw more people to the polls - hence the zig-zag. (The Pew Research Center has more on why that is.)

The chart:

Gov. Rick Snyder has been elected to a second term.
Wikimedia Commons

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry review Election Day in Michigan including voter turnout, victories and disappointments for both parties, and what yesterday’s results could mean for the next four years.


This cartogram depicts 2012 election results. It's a map adjusted for population size.
Mark Newman / Dept. of Physics and Center for the Study of Complex Systems, University of Michigan

Here are the election results for the races we're watching here at Michigan Radio.

Please go to your county's election page for more detailed results in your area.

You can also find information about the races not listed below on the Secretary of State's general elections website.

Winners will be in bold.

(NPR has national results here.)

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Ann Arbor Public School voters have rejected a proposal to annex Whitmore Lake Public Schools.

Scott Menzel heads the Washtenaw Intermediate School District.

He says it's hard to know what will happen next.

“We've got an Ann Arbor (School) Board election. They'll have at least two new board members on the board and they'll have to decide what they want to do,” Menzel said. “With respect to Whitmore Lake, they're going to go back to the drawing board and do what they need to stay out of deficit.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Voters in Grand Rapids, Flint and Kalamazoo approved changes to their city charters.

Kalamazoo voters approved proposals that will change the way their mayor and city commissioners are elected. The mayor will be elected separately from the rest of the city commission and commissioners will serve longer terms.

Flint voters split on six proposed changes to the way their city runs. Voters rejected proposals to eliminate the city’s ombudsman office, the city’s civil service commission and several departments.   

Michigan Secretary of State, Ruth Johnson.
MI SOS

Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has defeated Democratic challenger Godfrey Dillard in her bid for a second four-year term as Michigan's top elections and driver services official.

Johnson is a former Oakland County register of deeds and ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2006. She was elected secretary of state in 2010.

This year, Johnson has campaigned on her efforts to improve Michigan motor vehicle registration and driver's license system.

She says she plans to build on efforts to improve online services and reduce the waiting in line that long has been the complaint of Michigan motorists.

Dillard is a prominent civil rights lawyer and campaigned on making voting easier.

Libertarian James Lewis, U.S. Taxpayers' Robert Gale and Natural Law Party's Jason Robert Gatties also were on Tuesday's ballot.

Attorney General Bill Schuette has been reelected.
Bill Schuette

Republican Bill Schuette has been re-elected to a second term as Michigan's attorney general.

Schuette defeated Democrat Mark Totten and other candidates in Tuesday's general election.

The 61-year-old Schuette is a former congressman, state lawmaker and state appeals judge. He has campaigned heavily on being tough on crime.

He has supported funding to process thousands of untested rape evidence kits in Detroit, targeted human trafficking and pushed Michigan lawmakers to pass a school safety program.

Schuette also appealed a federal judge's ruling that Michigan's gay marriage ban is unconstitutional and supported a U.S. Supreme Court decision in April that upheld the state's ban on using race as a factor in college admissions.

Totten is a Michigan State University associate law professor and former special U.S. attorney.

American flag.
Corey Seeman / Flickr

We're following the races as they're called. You can see results here, and we have a rolling summary of results below.

You can also follow our team as they tweet from the Republican and Democratic parties in Michigan:

Gov. Rick Snyder has been elected to a second term.
Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Rick Snyder has been reelected to a second term.

Snyder was first elected governor in 2010. During Snyder’s first term, he oversaw major tax reforms that largely shifted the burden from business to individuals. He also appointed the emergency manager that’s ushering Detroit through bankruptcy.

Democratic challenger Mark Schauer represented Michigan’s 7th Congressional District from 2009-2011.

Updated at 12:00 p.m. ET on Nov. 6.

We've compiled a list of the incumbent candidates in the House, Senate and governors races that lost seats tonight. We will update this list throughout the night as the calls come in. You can keep up with NPR's live election coverage at election.npr.org and follow NPR News and NPR Politics on Twitter.

House Republican Incumbents Who Lost (3)

The Michigan House of Representatives.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

As election results come in – Michigan Democrats are keeping a close eye on state House races. They believe they take control of the state House in 2015.

Democrat Mark Schauer hopes if he’s elected governor tonight that he’ll have a Democratic House to work with.

“I think it would reflect a new set of priorities for Michigan and a different set of values and a different approach, one that really does put people first, realizing that we have to rebuild our middle class.”

Democrats would need to gain control of seven seats currently held by Republicans to have a majority. According to the Gongwer news service, Democrats are within reach in ten state House races.

A fall leaf asks us to vote this Election Day.
Mike Perini / Michigan Radio

Across the state, voters have had a chance to weigh in on a variety of issues this election season.

We have updates for you on the major races in Michigan, but if you want to know more about the local races in your area, you'll need to check your county elections page.  

To review your county's page, right-click on the map below and select "open link in new tab [or window]":

Today on Stateside:

  • Election Day coverage!

  • New mailers have added an element of peer pressure by telling you whether or not your neighbors voted, but can this tactic actually increase voter turnout?

  • When you cast your vote today, you're not only doing something good for our democracy, you're doing something good for your health. That's not just opinion: it's backed up by science. We find out what's going on here.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There will be a lot to keep an eye on tomorrow, so our It’s Just Politics team of Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta are breaking down for us the five things to look for on Election Day.

1. How well Gov. Rick Snyder does in Detroit. Pluta equates the election, in part, to a referendum on the governor's Detroit rescue plan, the bankruptcy, and the path forward. Gov. Snyder is not expected to win in Detroit, which is heavily Democratic.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan voters will decide races for governor, a U.S. Senate seat, members of Congress and other elected offices on Tuesday. 

But many won’t bother to vote on non-partisan races and questions on the ballot.

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson says many voters just forget.

“Some people when they vote for one party or another, which is about 60% of the population, they don’t realize that there is more to the ballot,” says Johnson.

Over the past few months, Michigan Radio hosted live call-in shows with the candidates for Michigan governor and U.S. Senate.

The broadcasts were part of the Michigan Public Radio Network’s “Michigan Calling” series of 2014 election specials.

Rick Pluta, the Michigan Public Radio Network’s state Capitol bureau chief, hosted each hour-long program.

Listeners had the choice of calling in or submitting questions via Facebook at “Michigan Calling,” or Twitter using the hashtag: #MICalling.

You can watch or listen to the programs below.

Flag at half-staff near the Capitol in Lansing.
Matt Katzenberger / Flickr

We asked you to share one word that best describes your feeling about Election Day.

Based on the responses, it looks like most people are somewhere between hopeful, nervous, and "meh."

We had a strict one word limit, but one new voter managed to get around the rule to express their excitement.

"omgitsmyfirsttimevotingijustturned18andgotmyvoterregistrationzomg!!!"

You can share your word here, excited or not.

Here are the words bubbling to the top:

Polling place.
Stephen Velasco / Flickr

Tomorrow is Election Day. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Michigan.

Candidates are out making their final push. Mostly, they just want you to get out of your house and vote.

Not a lot of people go out and vote during midterm elections. In our last midterm election, less than half of Michigan's registered voters cast a ballot.

When you head to the polls tomorrow, your ballot is going to be long. Here are two quick links to get your started from the Michigan Secretary of State:

The long campaign for Michigan governor comes to an end today.

The candidates are making one final push before voters have their say on Election Day on Tuesday.

The candidates for governor are both trying to build momentum heading into tomorrow’s election.

Democrat Mark Schauer spent the weekend riding in a recreational vehicle, traveling from city to city, from the Upper Peninsula to Jackson. He says it’s a “blitz to the finish”.

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