Democracy works best when everyone participates. Unfortunately, Michigan Republicans don’t seem to agree.
Every eligible voter should be able to make their voice heard. Every vote should count the same. These truths are pretty much fundamental to the idea of fair government of, by, and for the people and yet, Republicans in Michigan and across the country constantly work to make sure those things don’t happen.
The worst part is that they’re not really even trying to hide it anymore. Last week, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey was quoted in the Detroit News saying, “I think it’s a very high, high likelihood that we will have a very big turnout in Michigan, and a big turnout in Michigan doesn’t necessarily accrue to my interests.”
I mean, the data makes it clear that high turnout tends to favor Democrats, so it’s not exactly surprising to hear that GOP leadership doesn’t like it, but the fact that Shirkey said as much to a reporter shows just how little respect he has for our democratic process.
Shirkey may be the one saying the quiet part loud on voter turnout, but he’s certainly not alone in his opposition to real democracy—Michigan Republicans and their donors have worked to suppress voters’ voices for decades, and they’re still trying.
Possibly the most blatant example is how Republicans and conservatives have approached the issue of Proposal 2, a ballot initiative Michigan voters passed last year to end partisan gerrymandering and establish an independent redistricting commission. They opposed it before it passed, they tried to alter the law voters approved during the 2018 lame duck session, and they’re currently challenging it in court.
Of course, they have good reason to oppose fair maps that give all Michiganders an equal voice in our elections—after all, the ability to gerrymander districts to suppress the voices of people Republican consultants call “Dem garbage” has given them a stranglehold on our state legislature and a heavy advantage in Congressional elections. That’s how they’ve managed to maintain power while consistently serving corporate lobbyists at the expense of ordinary Michiganders.
As a general rule, the GOP has also opposed policies designed to make voting easier. Last year, they banned straight-ticket voting, which can help with long lines at crowded polling locations. They also opposed the passage and implementation of Proposal 3, another ballot initiative voters passed last year that brought back straight-ticket voting and introduced no-reason absentee voting and automatic voter registration.
Here’s the bottom line: Republicans and corporate lobbyists know their interests don’t align with what our communities want and need—clean air and water, quality public schools, a fair tax system, safe roads and bridges—so they work to make it as difficult as possible for people to hold them accountable. Michigan can be a place where everyone has a fair say, but we have to fight for the future we all deserve.