Stories about Michigan

Previewing the Democratic primary for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District

There are three battleground primaries taking place in Michigan on Aug. 4. Battlegrounds are elections that Ballotpedia expects to have a meaningful effect on the balance of power in governments or to be particularly competitive or compelling.

Democratic primary for Michigan’s 13 Congressional District

Incumbent Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Brenda Jones are running in the 13th District Democratic primary. The race is a rematch. Tlaib and Jones ran against one another in both the regular and special election primaries in 2018. Jones defeated Tlaib in the special primary election 37.7% to 35.9%, while Tlaib defeated Jones in the regular primary 31.2% to 30.2%. Jones completed the term to which John Conyers Jr. had been elected in 2016. Tlaib assumed office in January 2019.

Tlaib is among four congresswomen often referred to as the squad, along with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). Tlaib’s national profile is a focal point in the primary.

Tlaib has emphasized that she opened four neighborhood service centers in the district and said her “first term has been about making sure we help solve the immediate issues today while fighting for transformative legislation for decades to come.” She highlights her sponsorship of the BOOST Act—a refundable tax credit bill—and the Automatic Boost to Communities Act—a bill to provide a monthly stipend to every person in America amid COVID-19.

Jones is president of the Detroit City Council. She says she has worked to increase jobs, improve economic and educational opportunities, and revitalize neighborhoods on the Detroit City Council. She said, “I’m not interested in being a rock star. I’m just interested in bringing home the money, working for the people of the 13th district and uniting the community.”

Both Jones and Tlaib completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. Read Jones’ responses here and Tlaib’s responses here.

The other battleground primaries in Michigan are:

Republican primary in Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District

Five candidates are running for the Republican nomination in Michigan’s 3rd. Incumbent Rep. Justin Amash was elected and re-elected as a Republican since 2010. He switched his affiliation to independent in July 2019 before joining the Libertarian Party in April 2020. In July, media outlets said a tweet from Amash indicated he will not run for re-election. Republican primary candidates for the potentially open seat include army veteran Peter Meijer of the Meijer supermarket family and state Rep. Lynn Afendoulis, who lead in fundraising and media attention. Three election forecasters rate the general election Lean Republican.

Republican primary in Michigan’s 10th Congressional District

Shane Hernandez, Lisa McClain, and Doug Slocum are running in the Republican primary for Michigan’s 10th. Incumbent Paul Mitchell (R) did not seek re-election, leaving this safe Republican seat open. Hernandez is a state representative and emphasizes his legislative record. McClain, senior vice president of a financial services company, says her business experience equips her to bring jobs to the district and country. Slocum is an Air Force veteran who says he would transfer his leadership skills to Congress.

Additional reading:

Filing deadline approaches for three school boards in Michigan

The filing deadline to run for school board in the Detroit, Dearborn, and Ann Arbor school districts in Michigan is on July 21, 2020. In each district, three out of seven seats on the school board are up for election.

The general election in each district is scheduled for November 3, 2020. No primaries are scheduled for these races.

During the 2017-2018 school year, these three districts served a total of 88,080 students.

Michigan’s statewide filing deadline passed on April 21 for state legislative offices and on May 8 for congressional and state executive offices.

Additional reading:

Two Michigan incumbents complete Candidate Connection surveys

U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), both first elected in 2018, recently completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. Both candidates are running in uncontested primaries, meaning it is likely they will be the Democratic nominees in their respective general elections.
Slotkin and Stevens are two of the 30 House Democrats representing Districts that voted for Donald Trump (R) in 2016.
In the 8th Congressional District, Slotkin defeated incumbent Mike Bishop (R) 51-47% in 2018. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton (D) 51-44% in 2016.
In the 11th Congressional District, Stevens defeated Lena Epstein (R) 52-45% in 2018. Trump defeated Clinton 50-45% in 2016.
Ballotpedia asks all federal, state, and local candidates to complete a survey so voters can discover what motivates them on political and personal levels.
One question in the survey asks candidates to list three key messages of their campaigns. Here is one response from each candidate.
Slotkin: “I am focused on the issues my constituents ask me about the most: The price of health care and prescription drugs; protecting the water in our lakes and streams and coming out of our taps; creating good jobs and economic opportunity; and bringing some decency and civility to politics.”
Stevens: “Haley Stevens worked with Republicans and Democrats to deliver for Michigan’s manufacturing economy by passing the USMCA and the American Manufacturing Leadership Act, legislation she authored to promote innovation and close the skills gap.”
So far in 2020, Ballotpedia is covering 3,589 candidates for federal legislative offices. Of those candidates, 1,071 have completed a Candidate Connection survey, roughly 30 percent.
Read Slotkin’s full survey responses here.
Read Stevens’ full survey responses here.

Recall approved for circulation against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers on June 8 approved the petition language for a recall against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). Supporters of the recall need to submit 1,062,647 signatures within a 60-day period to force a recall election. The 60-day period begins on the first day that signatures are collected. According to WTVB, chief petitioner Chad Baase plans to start collecting signatures on July 1, 2020. That would make the signatures due by August 30, 2020.

The recall petition criticizes Whitmer over nine of her executive orders that she signed during the coronavirus pandemic. The orders include her declaration of emergency and the temporary suspension of non-essential businesses and activities.

Baase said about the recall, “She didn’t put through effective measures with COVID to ensure businesses didn’t have to close their doors. Some places couldn’t social distance under the federal guidelines, but many businesses could have stayed open with safety guidelines in place and were forced out of work. You can’t take away someone’s income and say you’re eligible for pandemic unemployment but then you can’t speak with anyone. I’m still waiting on my unemployment. They owe me 10 weeks.”

Christopher Mills, a senior adviser to Gov. Whitmer’s campaign, said the following about the recall effort: “Michiganders know that the vast majority support the governor’s swift and aggressive action in the fight against COVID-19. The governor plans to fight this recall aggressively while staying focused on protecting Michigan families from the spread of COVID-19.”

Michigan is under a divided government. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the state Senate by a 22-16 margin and the state House by a 58-51 margin with one vacancy. Whitmer was elected as Michigan’s governor in 2018 with 53.3% of the vote.

Six gubernatorial recall efforts are currently underway in 2020. From 2003 to 2019, Ballotpedia tracked 21 gubernatorial recall efforts. During that time, two recalls made the ballot, and one governor was successfully recalled. Former California Gov. Gray Davis (D) was recalled in 2003 and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). In 2012, former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was retained in a recall election. The only other governor to ever be successfully recalled was former North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier (R) in 1921.

Additional reading:

The League of Women Voters of Michigan sues Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) over implementation of Proposal 3’s absentee ballot provision

The League of Women Voters of Michigan sues Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) over implementation of Proposal 3’s absentee ballot provision

In 2018, voters approved Michigan Proposal 3, a citizen-initiated measure that added no-excuse absentee voting to the Michigan Constitution. Before Proposal 3, statute required an excuse related to age, travel, religion, arraignment or trial, or election duties to obtain an absentee ballot. The League of Women Voters of Michigan (LWV), along with state chapters of the ACLU and NAACP, sponsored the proposal.

On May 22, 2020, the LWV sued Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) in the Michigan Court of Appeals over the implementation of Proposal 3’s absentee ballot provision.

Proposal 3 (Article II, Section 4 of the Michigan Constitution) states that electors have a right to vote an absentee ballot in person or via mail during the 40 days before an election. Existing statute says that mail-in absentee ballots need to be received by elections clerks before polls close (at 8 p.m.) on election day to be counted. According to LWV, Proposal 3 rendered the statute unconstitutional.

The lawsuit stated, “For instance, a voter who mails her completed ballot the day before election day will have her ballot rejected if it arrives at the clerk’s office two days later. The received-by deadline thus facially denies voters their express constitutional right ‘to choose’ to submit their absentee ballots ‘by mail’ at any time within 40 days of election day.”

Proposal 3 stated that the constitutional amendment was self-executing and “shall be liberally construed in favor of voters’ rights in order to effectuate its purposes.” In the lawsuit, LWV asked the court to order Secretary Benson to direct local election clerks to count mail-in absentee ballots that were postmarked by election day.

On May 22, a spokesperson for the secretary of state said that the office had no immediate comment while the lawsuit was being reviewed.

Along with creating a state constitutional right to vote by absentee ballot, Proposal 3 established constitutional rights to straight-ticket voting, automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and the auditing of election results.

Additional reading:

Campaign behind Michigan LGBTQ nondiscrimination initiative files signatures below requirement while challenging the requirement in court

Update: This article has been updated in response to Judge Stephens’ order extending the signature filing deadline for the campaign Fair and Equal Michigan.

On May 26, the campaign Fair and Equal Michigan announced that they would file 177,865 signatures by the deadline on May 27, 2020, for a ballot initiative to add gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression to the state’s nondiscrimination law. The ballot initiative would also prohibit discrimination on the basis of the religious beliefs of an individual. However, Judge Cynthia Stephens granted temporary emergency relief, which extended the the initiative’s signature deadline to at least June 3, 2020.

Fair and Equal Michigan filed a legal complaint challenging the signature requirement in the Michigan Court of Claims on May 26. Judge Stephens said she would consider the merits of the complaint and motions on June 2. In the court case, Fair and Equal Michigan, along with plaintiffs Sen. Adam Hollier (D-2) and Rep. Mari Manoogian (D-40), argued that the signature threshold should be decreased to 127,518 because the coronavirus pandemic and related orders had the effect of limiting the campaign’s circulation period to 45 days. In Michigan, campaigns receive 180 days to collect signatures. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D), Director of Elections Jonathan Brater, and the Michigan Board of State Canvassers were named as defendants.

At least 340,047 valid signatures need to be collected for the ballot initiative, meaning the campaign is currently more than 162,000 signatures short of the requirement. Trevor Thomas, a campaign co-chairperson, said, “The Stay-at-Home orders, while important to public safety, shut down all traditional canvassing right when our campaign was nearing peak operational capacity – which is about 50,000 signatures plus per week.”

The Michigan State Constitution requires that campaigns for initiated state statutes collect a total number of signatures equal to 8 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. Since 4,250,585 people voted for governor in 2018, the requirement was set at 340,047.

Ballotpedia is tracking how the coronavirus pandemic and related policies are impacting ballot measures. Fair and Equal Michigan is one of at least 19 ballot initiative campaigns that have challenged ballot initiative requirements, including deadlines, verification procedures, signature thresholds, and in-person signature requirements, in courts.

Fair and Equal Michigan had raised $2.22 million through the most recent campaign finance period, which ended on April 20, 2020. The largest contributor was a 501(C)(4) organization named Bipartisan Solutions. Dow Chemical, based in Midland, Michigan, contributed $250,000. Kellogg’s, based in Battle Creek, Michigan, contributed $125,000.

Additional reading:

Michigan legislature asks state Supreme Court to take up lawsuit challenging governor’s emergency powers

On Friday, May 22, Republicans in the Michigan Senate and House asked the Michigan Supreme Court to consider a lawsuit filed by House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R) challenging Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) emergency declarations issued in response to the coronavirus.

A Michigan Court of Claims Judge ruled against the legislature on Thursday, May 21, but attorneys for the House and Senate asked the state’s highest court to grant the lawsuit an “emergency-bypass review” to avoid a decision from the Court of Appeals.

Gov. Whitmer has issued emergency declarations, including the state’s stay-at-home order, under two laws, one from 1976 and one from 1945. The legislature’s lawsuit challenges the Governor’s authority to issue statewide and indefinite emergency declarations under both laws. The Court of Claims ruled that Gov. Whitmer exceeded her authority under the 1976 law but not the 1945 law, and dismissed the lawsuit.

All registered Michigan voters in August 4, 2020, and November 3, 2020, elections to receive mail-in ballot applications automatically

On May 19, 2020, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) announced that all registered voters in the August 2, 2020, primary and November 3, 2020, general election would receive mail-in ballot applications automatically.

Michigan one of 12 states that have opted to deliver absentee/mail-in ballot applications automatically to all voters in advance of certain elections. It is also one of three states that have expanded absentee/mail-in ballot policies for both upcoming statewide primaries and the November general election. The other two are California and Connecticut.

Whitmer signs executive order allowing retail businesses, restaurants to reopen in 32 Michigan counties

On May 18, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed an executive order allowing retail businesses, offices, restaurants, and bars to reopen effective May 22 in the following 32 counties: Alger, Alpena, Antrim, Baraga, Benzie, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Crawford, Delta, Dickinson, Emmet, Gogebic, Grand Traverse, Houghton, Iron, Kalkaska, Keweenaw, Leelanau, Luce, Mackinac, Manistee, Marquette, Menominee, Missaukee, Montmorency, Ontonagon, Otsego, Presque Isle, Roscommon, Schoolcraft and Wexford.

Restaurants and bars will be subject to a 50% capacity limit.

Michigan’s reopening has been in progress since April 24, at which time Whitmer announced that landscaping and outdoor activity businesses, and curbside retail for nonessential supplies, could resume. Effective May 11, manufacturing businesses were allowed to reopen.

Michigan’s stay-at-home order, first issued on March 23 and originally set to expire on April 13, has been modified and extended numerous times. It is currently set to expire on May 28.

Michigan extends stay-at-home order to May 28, allows manufacturers to resume operations May 11

On May 7, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) extended Michigan’s stay-at-home order to May 28. Whitmer issued the original order on March 23, and it was initially set to expire on April 13. Whitmer subsequently extended the order, first through April 30, then through May 15, and, yesterday, through May 28.
Whitmer announced that manufacturing entities could resume operations effective May 11. She also unveiled her phased reopening plan for the state, the “MI Safe Start” plan. The plan outlines six phases of disease spread, with restrictions placed on businesses being relieved progressively as the state moves through each phase. Whitmer said that Michigan was currently in phase three (flattening), which is marked by a relatively stable number of new cases and deaths on a day-to-day basis, stable healthcare system capacity, and ramped up testing and tracing efforts. The plan does not specify effective or duration dates for each phase. Instead, movement from one phase to another is contingent on meeting and maintain certain public health benchmarks.
Michigan began its reopening process on April 24, joining five other states that reopened on that day. Effective April 24, Michigan landscaping and outdoor activity businesses were allowed to reopen, and stores selling nonessential supplies were permitted to reopen for curbside pick-up and delivery services.