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What's on the ballot this year in Mid-Michigan?

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2024 is shaping up to be a busy year for elections and political affairs in Michigan.

The presidential election is Nov. 5, and there are several federal and statewide contests before that.

WKAR’s politics and civics reporter Arjun Thakkar joins Megan Schellong to take a look ahead at what’s on the ballot this year.

Interview Highlights

On Michigan’s Congressional races

The first biggest race that we have to watch out for is Michigan's open U.S. Senate seat. That seat is open because incumbent, Debbie Stabenow is retiring at the end of her term this year, that triggered a new political horse race, sort of a cascading effect for the seat, there's likely to be a large Republican primary and a crowd of candidates hoping to flip that seat.

On Lansing's charter revision commission

Last November, voters in the capital city approved a general revision to their city charter for the first time in more than 40 years. So that essentially allows residents to approve changes to the city's local Constitution, that informs how the local government works. The next step in that process is electing members to a commission that will lead the revision for that charter. So, voters in May will select nine citizens in Lansing to be part of that commission.

On Michigan's shifting presidential primary

Last year, the Democratic led legislature and Governor Gretchen Whitmer moved the date of Michigan's presidential primary from early March to the end of February. So, bumping the primary up the calendar by a couple of weeks makes Michigan one of the first states in the country to hold their primaries. And supporters of the change argue it gives Michigan voters more influence in deciding the presidential nomination. So voters can head to the polls to select the Republican and Democratic candidates that they think should be nominated for president.

Interview Transcript

Megan Schellong: 2024 is shaping up to be a busy year for elections and political affairs in Michigan. The presidential election is in November and there are several federal and statewide contests before that.

WKAR’s politics and civics reporter Arjun Thakkar joins me now to take a look ahead at what’s on the ballot this year. Thanks for being here!

Arjun Thakkar: Of course, thanks for having me, Megan.

Schellong: Let's start with the presidential primary. That is going to be the first chance most Michigan voters get to head to the polls. And it's happening at a different time this year, right?

Thakkar: Yeah, it will be on February 27, which is just coming up. Last year, the Democratic led legislature and Governor Gretchen Whitmer moved the date of Michigan's presidential primary from early March to the end of February. So, bumping the primary up the calendar by a couple of weeks makes Michigan one of the first states in the country to hold their primaries. And supporters of the change argue it gives Michigan voters more influence in deciding the presidential nomination. So voters can head to the polls to select the Republican and Democratic candidates that they think should be nominated for president.

Schellong: Absolutely, being first has a critical role in the race for president. Outside of the race for president, though, there are several legislative races for federal office, and voters here in Mid-Michigan are facing some important decisions in choosing which lawmakers go to Washington D.C. Arjun, what is happening in some of the congressional races?

Thakkar: Yeah, so just the first biggest race that we have to watch out for is Michigan's open U.S. Senate seat. That seat is open because incumbent Debbie Stabenow is retiring at the end of her term this year. That triggered a new political horse race, sort of a cascading effect for the seat, there's likely to be a large Republican primary and a crowd of candidates hoping to flip that seat.

On the Democratic side. Elissa Slotkin is the front runner in the primary race. And to do that, she's going to have to vacate her seat in the 7th congressional district, which represents several counties including the Lansing area. So, there's also going to be an open race to represent Mid-Michigan in Congress, which we know was one of the most competitive and expensive congressional races in the country in 2022.

Curtis Hertel, a former state senator who worked in Governor Whitmer’s administration, is likely to be the Democratic nominee and Tom Barrett, a former state senator who ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2022, is likely to be the Republican nominee. So those candidates nominated in August will face off in the November general election, which of course is going to be closely watched because it will also feature that presidential election.

Voters will also pick their state lawmakers during the August primary and November elections. And also, just quickly worth noting, there's a primary at the end of January and a special election in April for some voters in Metro Detroit to fill two vacated state House seats. That matters for everyone in Michigan, because for now, Democrats and Republicans have an equal number of members in the House. So, these races will essentially determine control of the state House and whether Democrats retain control of the full legislature.

Schellong: It’s a close cut to there. I understand there are also local elections being held in May in both Lansing and East Lansing. Can you tell us what will be on the ballot in the cities?

Thakkar: Sure, so just starting off with Lansing, last November, voters in the capital city approved a general revision to their city charter for the first time in more than 40 years. So that essentially allows residents to approve changes to the city's local Constitution that informs how the local government works.

The next step in that process is electing members to a commission that will lead the revision for that charter. So, voters in May will select nine citizens in Lansing to be part of that commission. The commission can push for small changes or propose a more dramatic overhaul that could restructure Lansing’s form of local government. They'll have about a little less than three years to take feedback and write up a new draft charter that would again need approval from voters to be adopted.

And just briefly in East Lansing, there's going to be a millage that, if approved by voters, would authorize funding for renovations in East Lansing’s public schools.

Schellong: And as our politics reporter Arjun, what else are you keeping an eye on this election year?

Thakkar: Well, there were a few changes to the voting process that were recently approved that are kind of just now taking effect. Early voting is one of those so local municipalities have the option to allow early voting and local races last year. But for the statewide ballots that we have coming up this year, Michigan cities and towns will be required to offer at least nine days of in-person early voting before an election. So I'm curious to see whether more voters opt to vote early this cycle, or if they continue to favor absentee voting as they have for the past few election cycles.

Voters also have the option to sign up to be put on a permanent absentee voter list, meaning they'll all meaning that automatically receive an absentee ballot in their mailbox for future elections. So also, be on the lookout to see if that also becomes a popular option.

Schellong: Arjun Thakkar is WKAR’s politics and civics reporter. He joined me today to discuss a busy election year and the proposals on the ballot. Thanks Arjun.

Thakkar: Yeah, thank you Megan.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Megan Schellong hosted and produced Morning Edition on WKAR from 2021 to 2024.
Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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