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What happened in Tuesday's election? A recap of turnout, key mid-Michigan results

Brody Hall East Lansing Election Day voting booth
Sarah Lehr
/
WKAR News
A privacy screen for voters at Brody Hall on Michigan State University is pictured on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. Brody Hall doubles as a precinct and an East Lansing city clerk's satellite office.

Greater Lansing voters faced a bevy of local candidates and proposals Tuesday. WKAR's All Things Considered host Sophia Saliby sat down with politics reporter Sarah Lehr to recap key results from mid-Michigan.

Interview Highlights

On unsurprising victories for Lansing incumbents

Incumbent Mayor Andy Schor was the frontrunner in the primary and he won in a landslide Tuesday. He got about 64% of the vote. He outraised his challenger City Council Member Kathie Dunbar about seven to one according to …their pre-general election fundraising reports. Tuesday, overall, was a good night for incumbents. On the council, Peter Spadafore kept his at-large seat. Jeremy Garza in southeast Lansing and Brian Jackson in northwest Lansing all kept their seats. There'll be joined by newcomer Jeffrey Brown, who won an at-large spot.

On voter turnout

Unfortunately, turnout is typically low for a local election. East Lansing had several City Council seats on the ballot that were elected citywide and about one-fifth of registered voters there turned out. ...In their mayoral races, Lansing had just over 20% voter turnout and Jackson had 16%.

On secretive funding sources behind a failed Potterville pot proposal

A group called the Eaton Cares Coalition actually submitted signatures from enough registered Potterville voters to bring that measure to the ballot. But the funders of Eaton Cares Coalition are ultimately a mystery. The group does list a treasurer — he did not respond to a request for comment for a story that was published to WKAR earlier this week. He's the same treasurer behind several similar ballot measures in Michigan. And those groups only list contributions from a nonprofit called the Coalition for Michigan Patients. That nonprofit does not disclose disclose its donors and it's not required to do so. It's been connected to other proposals that got to the ballot in places like Perry and Rockwood — proposals, basically, that are designed to expand the cannabis industry to more communities.

Interview Transcript

Sophia Saliby: This is All Things Considered on WKAR, I’m Sophia Saliby. Michigan voters weighed in on a host of local elections yesterday, and I'm here with WKAR’s politics reporter Sarah Lehr to talk about the key results in Greater Lansing. Thanks for being here, Sarah.

Sarah Lehr: Thanks for having me.

Saliby: So, let's start with the races in the city of Lansing. Were there any surprises there?

Lehr: I wouldn't say surprising. Incumbent Mayor Andy Schor was the frontrunner in the primary and he won in a landslide Tuesday. He got about 64% of the vote. He outraised his challenger City Council Member Kathie Dunbar about seven to one, according to…their pre-general election fundraising reports. Tuesday, overall, was a good night for incumbents. On the council, Peter Spadafore kept his at-large seat. Jeremy Garza in southeast Lansing and Brian Jackson in northwest Lansing all kept their seats. There'll be joined by newcomer Jeffrey Brown, who won an at-large spot.

Saliby: Now, looking south, the results of one race in Jackson were historic. Could you tell us what happened?

Lehr: Daniel Mahoney is going to be the city's first Black mayor. He beat retired corrections worker John Wilson. Mahoney is a Democratic county commissioner currently and I would say Wilson was the more conservative candidate in the race.

Saliby: And what was voter turnout like across mid-Michigan?

Lehr: Unfortunately, turnout is typically low for a local election. East Lansing had several City Council seats on the ballot that were elected citywide and about one-fifth of registered voters there turned out. They elected incumbents Dana Watson and Ron Bacon, as well as newcomer George Brookover to the council. In their mayoral races, Lansing had just over 20% voter turnout and Jackson had 16%.

Absentee voting was very popular. Now, all of these tallies are still unofficial until they're certified by boards of canvassers, but absentee ballots made up more than 70% of all the ballots cast in Ingham County. COVID could have had a role in that. You know, perhaps people wanted to vote from home. They wanted to vote by mail or turning in a ballot via a drop box, because they're worried about crowds at polls. Although, with such low voter turnout, there weren't really any lines at polls. It's also worth noting that Michigan made it easier to vote absentee when they expanded that process in 2018. And a lot of the people who cast absentee ballots actually did cast them on Election Day. They just went to a local clerk's office. Maybe they registered that day and the clerk said, “Hey, why don't you just fill out an absentee ballot here instead of going to your precinct?”

Saliby: So, there was a long list of proposals on mid-Michigan ballots, including one to permit recreational marijuana businesses in Potterville. Tell us more about that measure and what happened last night.

Lehr: Currently, Potterville bans recreational and medical cannabis businesses and voters on Tuesday rejected a proposal that would have opened the city's doors to recreational establishments. If that had passed, the city would have had to create a licensing system for a limited number of those businesses. And they would have had to create a community benefits program, which, according to the proposal, would have been designed to help people who were harmed disproportionately by Michigan's previous prohibition of marijuana use.

Saliby: So, even though it didn't pass, you've done some reporting on who was behind that ballot initiative in Potterville. Could you tell us some more about what you found?

Lehr: A group called the Eaton Cares Coalition actually submitted signatures from enough registered Potterville voters to bring that measure to the ballot. But the funders of Eaton Cares Coalition are ultimately a mystery. The group does list a treasurer — he did not respond to a request for comment for a story that was published to WKAR earlier this week. He's the same treasurer behind several similar ballot measures in Michigan. And those groups only list contributions from a nonprofit called the Coalition for Michigan Patients. That nonprofit does not disclose its donors and it's not required to do so. It's been connected to other proposals that got to the ballot in places like Perry and Rockwood — proposals, basically, that are designed to expand the cannabis industry to more communities. I talked to an expert from a watchdog group called OpenSecrets. And she says these proposals have many of the hallmarks of a dark money network, where a political group is trying to obscure its backers and its ultimate source of funding.

Saliby: Sarah Lehr is our politics and civics reporter. Thank you for being here.

Lehr: Thanks for having me, Sophia.

Saliby: This is WKAR, I'm Sophia Saliby. You can find more results and analysis from the general election online at our website at wkar.org.

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