With several potentially historic measures on the ballot and tight races for statewide offices, November’s election will have major consequences for voting rights, environmental regulation, abortion rights, and democracy itself.
The results will also determine who will oversee the 2024 presidential election, with several Republican office-seekers continuing to say that the 2020 election was stolen.
Here we share some info on key races and ballot measures that will likely have an environmental impact. But first, some basics:
When do I vote? Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
How do I register to vote? You can register any time between now and election day if you are a U.S. citizen who will be at least 18 or older on Election Day, a Michigan resident upon registration, a resident of your municipality for at least 30 days at the time of voting and not currently serving a jail or prison sentence.
Register in person at your local clerk’s office any time through election day. You can vote simultaneously if you register at the clerk’s office on election day. You can also register to vote online until Oct. 24. Applications submitted by mail need to be postmarked by Oct. 24. The Detroit Free Press answers other questions about voting absentee and voter registration here.
Where do I vote? You can find your polling place, nearest drop box, clerk’s office, sample ballot, and other information on the Michigan Secretary of State’s website.
The city of Detroit opened 13 early voting centers where voters can register, pick up an absentee ballot and drop off their ballots early. The centers are open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the weekend before Election Day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
What if I want to vote absentee? An absentee ballot can be requested online if you have a State ID or driver’s license. However, state officials recommend requesting an absentee ballot by Oct. 25, 14 days before Election Day.
You can apply for an absentee ballot here. You can also request an absentee ballot at your local clerk’s office up until 4 p.m. on Nov. 7. Officials recommend putting absentee ballots in the mail by at least Oct. 25 and hand delivering them to a drop box after that date.
Now, on to the guide:
Proposal 1: Financial disclosure and term limits
A bipartisan group is pushing Michigan’s Proposal 1 to change the state’s very strict term limits and very not-so-strict financial disclosure rules. Michigan and Idaho are the only two states without financial disclosure laws for state politicians. Proposal 1 would make modest changes to the status quo, requiring state politicians to report “sources�? of income and assets and meet the same gift-reporting requirements as registered lobbyists.
The term-limit portion of the proposal may have more impact. Currently, lawmakers can serve two three-year terms in the state House and two four-year terms in the state Senate, for a total of 14 years in office. Proposal 1 would reduce the total allowable time in the legislature to 12 years but allow lawmakers to spend it all in one chamber.
While voters often express approval for term limits, many experts say they don’t give lawmakers enough time to learn how to do government business and consequently give power to lobbyists and public interest groups.
“You put the legislature at a disadvantage to those entities that have greater expertise because they’re there for longer,�? said Peverill Squire, a professor of political science at the University of Missouri who studies state legislatures. “It empowers interest groups to a greater extent and probably shifts the power to the executive branch because they have more experienced people who are better informed on policies.�?
Proposal 1 is supported by the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Detroit Free Press Editorial Board, and Progress Michigan.
Proposal 2: Voting rights
Proposal 2, or the “Promote the Vote�? initiative to expand voting rights, may be one of the most consequential things on this year’s ballot. If passed, it would allow for nine days of early voting, expand access to absentee voting and keep current voter ID laws, which permit registered voters to cast a ballot on Election Day without a state ID if they sign an affidavit attesting to their identity.
The proposal would also mandate state-funded postage for absentee ballots and applications, require drop boxes for every 15,000 voters in a municipality and compel canvassing boards to only certify election results based on official vote counts, among other measures.
Supporters say Proposal 1 will strengthen democracy by helping more people vote, which could be especially important following widespread efforts to undermine the validity of the 2020 election. Environmental advocates have expressed concern that U.S. governance's anti-democratic turn could undermine climate action.
“I think that our members and supporters automatically understand that our advocacy is premised on being in a system where advocacy matters,�? said Christy McGillivray, legislative and political director for the Sierra Club’s Michigan chapter. “If we cannot hold elected officials accountable through free, fair, and transparent elections, where everyone can participate, then it’s a whole different game we’re playing and it’s pretty disturbing.�?
Proposal 2 is supported by the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, Progress Michigan and the Detroit Free Press Editorial Board.
Proposal 3: Abortion rights
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Michigan’s Proposal 3 looks to guarantee the right to abortion, contraception and fertility care. Proposal 3 would invalidate Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban, which is still in place, although a judge has blocked it with a permanent injunction.
The proposal allows the state to regulate abortion after the point of “fetal viability,�? which occurs at around 24 weeks or six months of pregnancy. But an exception is made for abortions to “protect the life or physical or mental health�? of the person giving birth.
Environmental advocates have connected the struggle for reproductive rights with the environmental justice movement, arguing both issues concern bodily autonomy and health.
“Reproductive justice and environmental justice are really about our ability to make decisions about our health and our bodies,�? said Bridget Vial, an organizer with the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition.
The Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, Progress Michigan and the Detroit Free Press Editorial Board all endorsed Proposal 3.
Ann Arbor’s climate action proposal
Ann Arbor voters will vote on a millage to fund the city’s climate goals. The tax could raise $100 million between 2023 and 2043. This money would be used to invest in solar and geothermal power, energy efficiency programs, neighborhood resilience centers, and non-motorized transportation and public transit networks, among other initiatives.
Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor and several other local political leaders support the millage, also endorsed by the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and Michigan League of Conservation Voters. The city has more information on the measure here.
Oakland, Macomb and parts of Wayne County will vote on funding measures for the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART). SMART is metro Detroit’s regional transit system, and it connects with Detroit’s bus system. SMART millages are supported by the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and Detroit Free Press.
In Macomb County, voters will decide whether or not to renew the 0.95 countywide millage to keep SMART buses operating for another five years. SMART had trouble getting the measure on the ballot this year amid growing opposition to the system on the part of some communities like Macomb Township.
In Oakland County, voters will decide on a 0.95 mill levy for ten years to fund public transit throughout Oakland County. This is notable because up until now, Oakland County communities have been able to “opt-out�? of SMART, leaving a swiss cheese transit system in the county. If the Oakland millage passes, all Oakland residents will fund SMART and receive SMART services, potentially including fixed routes into far-flung suburbs like Novi and Rochester. Notably, a regional transit millage proposal defeated by voters in 2016 was approved by 50 percent of voters in Oakland County, and the County continues to move to the left.
In Wayne County, voters in communities that have SMART will decide on the renewal of the 0.994 mill funding for another four years.
Open space and farmland preservation: Dexter Township, Scio Township and Northfield Township will consider millages to preserve farmland and open space. The Sierra Club Michigan Chapter supports all three measures.
Following her launch of the MI Healthy Climate Plan, it’s perhaps unsurprising that environmental groups back incumbent Governor Gretchen Whitmer, including the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and Michigan League of Conservation Voters.
The Detroit Free Press is also backing Whitmer, saying that the Republican candidates for the major statewide offices have disqualified themselves by endorsing former President Donald Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen.
The Freep said Whitmer’s rival Tudor Dixon, Secretary of State candidate Kristina Karamo and Attorney General candidate Matt DePerno all lack experience in public office while continuing to back conspiracy theories related to the last election. The Detroit News is backing Dixon.
“Dixon, DePerno and Karamo pose an unprecedented threat to Michigan’s long tradition of free and fair elections,�? the Free Press Editorial Board said.
Secretary of State
The Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter and Michigan League of Conservation Voters also support current Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel. Benson received the“Environmentalist of the Year�? award from the Sierra Club because of her work during the 2020 election.
“Sierra Club understands that democracy is essential to environmental protection,�? said David Holtz, a member of the group’s executive committee.
The Free Press Editorial Board praised Attorney General Dana Nessel for making good “on her 2018 pledge to direct more of her office’s resources to consumer protection and environmental enforcement.�?
Michigan Supreme Court
Progress Michigan and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters endorsed Kyra H. Bolden and Richard Bernstein for seats on the Michigan Supreme Court.
State House and Senate:
The makeup of the state House and Senate could determine whether or not the governor can implement policies to advance state climate goals, which include reducing emissions by 28% from 2005 levels by 2025 and 52% by 2030.
One close race will likely be in the new 48th District in northern Washtenaw County, where Green Party candidate Eric Borregard faces off against Democrat Jennifer Conlin and Republican Jason Woolford. Responses to survey questions from Conlin and Borregard can be found here. Conlin has been endorsed by the Michigan League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter.
An Oakland County race between Democrat Padma Kuppa and Republican Michael Webber for state Senate District 9 could also be close. Kuppa has stressed her commitment to holding polluters accountable and protecting the Great Lakes and drinking water.
Oakland County’s 13th Senate District may also deliver a tight race this year. Democratic state Senator Rosemary Bayer is running against Republican Jason Rhines. Bayer has touted her work on the state’s recently passed $5 billion budget, which included money for water infrastructure. She has received endorsements from the Michigan League of Conservation Voters and Sierra Club Michigan chapter.
Metro Detroit will see a few competitive races for the U.S. House. These include the contest between Democratic incumbent Elissa Slotkin and Republican Tom Barret in the state’s newly reconfigured 7th District. The district contains a large chunk of the southeast and central Michigan and is
regarded as a tossup. Slotkin has been endorsed by the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, and the League of Conservation Voters’ national scorecard for elected officials gives her an environmental voting record of 97%. The race between Republican John James and Democrat Carl Marlinga for the 10th District, which includes Macomb County, could also be close. Marlinga has emphasized clean energy, protecting the Great Lakes, and job creation as priorities, while John James has aligned himself closely with former President Donald Trump.
Bridge Michigan has a page with links to its articles on candidates, ballot initiatives, and key issues.
Detroit Documenters has this guide to help you vote with confidence.
Voters concerned about environmental issues can look at the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter’s extensive list of endorsements. The Michigan League of Conservation Voters also endorses many candidates and ballot proposals. And the Progressive Voters Guide, from the left-leaning advocacy organization Progress Michigan, provides information and endorsements for candidates, including those running for some city and county offices.
For national races, you can look at the League of Conservation Voters’ environmental scorecard for incumbent politicians.