As we approach another election cycle at Downtown Newsmagazine, I can't help but recall one of the more important lessons given to me way too many years ago by my mother who I credit with the lion's share of my formation as she dragged me at an early age every couple of years to accompany her to the voting booth as a way to impress upon me the importance of voting.
It was a lesson that has stayed with me ever since, including this year as we gear up here to produce a Voter Guide for the primary and the November general elections, something we have done every couple of years since we first launched Downtown Newsmagazine. In my particular case, I have been part of over 20 election cycles during which editorial staff members have put Voter Guide information before local residents.
Our efforts here at Downtown Newsmagazine have proven to be appreciated by our readers, many of whom call or email in advance of elections to question whether we will be providing candidate information before they cast their absentee ballot or go to the polling places. Nice to know that we are not alone in thinking that elections are important, especially in 2022.
As we kick off this year's election coverage, on page 80 of this issue you will find information on the candidates who have filed for county commission, state House and Senate, and Congress. There are primary contests for some offices as a prelude to the general election. With the exception of one library board position in Bloomfield Township, no local municipal – city or township – candidate elections appear on the August primary ballot.
We started weeks ago preparing questions for candidates with an August contest, and we are now sending out questionnaires, the answers to which will be provided in our primary election Voter Guide which appears in the July issue and on DowntownPublications.com. We put this out in our July issue because of the growing number of absentee voters who will receive ballots about a month before the election. Once the political party standard bearers are chosen in the August election, we will then start our work on producing a Voter Guide for the general election.
The candidate information provided to our readers includes biographical info and answers to questions that we think provide voters with insight into the thinking of those seeking your support. Our Voter Guides in the past ranged as small as eight pages and as large as 32 pages of information, a considerable (and costly) undertaking.
News editor Lisa Brody and I will also use this information – along with possibly some select meetings with candidates either in person or by Zoom – to arrive at our recommendations for endorsements. Although we are just one voice in the community, I would like to think one of the more knowledgable ones when it comes to candidates and issues.
Relative to the elections this year, we are also issuing an early reminder on our policy about submitting letters supporting candidates, intended for publication in our monthly Incoming (letters to the editor) section. Sorry, we will not publish such letters this year for either the primary or general election. Our logic? We are a monthly publication and if something critical about a candidate appears in Downtown Newsmagazine, our frequency makes it difficult for anyone to respond. Also, letters supporting candidates, which we always receive a spate of just before voting day, are most often organized letter-writing campaigns on the part of candidates' organizations – and for which a more appropriate venue would be a paid ad.
As I have referenced in past columns, there will likely be a number of critical state legislative and constitutional amendment questions appearing on the ballot in November of this year, adding even more reason to make sure you are part of the voting process.
The 2022 elections take on a special significance because we have lived the last four-five years in a very polarized society, with no indication this situation will change any time soon. Observers of politics and culture in general know that with the 2016 election, the floodgates allowing the rise of racism, sexism, white nationalism and exclusionary behavior in public conversation and government policy were opened wide. And there appears of late to be a doubling down on extremism in Washington and Lansing when I think voters long for something else. The battles nowadays over litmus test cultural/political issues too often overshadow logical debate on important policy issues and clearly contribute to the erosion of democracy as we have known it.
While all elections are important, the 2022 August primary and November general will determine winners of the new districts carved out by the independent redistricting commission voters set into motion with the 2018 ballot issue that took this important task away from the politicians, with the exception of redrawing of county commission districts where partisan (Democrat) interests still dominated the process.
Voters this year will have to sort through new political districts that are now in place for the county board of commissioners, the state House and Senate, as well as Congress, a redistricting process that happens every 10 years. Will it be confusing at first? Yes. It has taken some time for us to get a grip on the newly drawn political districts, largely because local communities got carved up severely this time around, unfortunately.
Lastly, I like to remind everyone of the age-old fact that primary election turnout is always lower than at a general election because more often than not primary voters are largely the party faithful. Low voter turnout in August or November means we end up with a government of minority rule.
So if your are not registered to vote, do so before the August primary. Then contact your local municipal clerk's office for an absentee ballot. We won the right to “no reason” absentee ballots when voters in 2018 approved changes to voting regulations now enshrined in the Michigan Constitution, so don't waste this opportunity to help shape the future of your government by voting from home or heading to the polls on Tuesday, August 2.