After the 2016 election, a 28 year old Michigander decided she was tired of political polarization and cynicism about the government's ability to improve people’s lives. She wrote a two-sentence post on Facebook and invited others to join her to end gerrymandering in Michigan. Eventually, the Ecology Center and thousands of everyday citizens did, and in 2018, Michiganders overwhelmingly voted for a citizen’s redistricting commission.
Next month’s midterms will be the first general election in a state legislative landscape shaped by Michigan citizens, not politicians. It is the first time in years that the outcome in many districts is not assured, and where the results might better reflect the perspectives of all of the residents of the state - if people vote.
Katie Fahey, the 28-year old activist, and the volunteers that changed the face of Michigan politics, showed the power of collective action in the face of difficult odds. While there are always reasons to lose hope, the essayist Rebecca Solnit reminds us that the future is still unwritten, allowing all of us to write it together, with a positive vision, and hope for the future. Elections are among the most important ways we write that future together.
This election cycle is more consequential than most. Consider:
Voting rights is on the ballot: According to the Brennan Center, “Between January 1 and December 7, at least 19 states passed 34 laws restricting access to voting. More than 440 bills with provisions that restrict voting access have been introduced in 49 states in 2021.” The Center calls this “extraordinary,” and unprecedented, the trend is accelerating in 2022. Communities of color most burdened by pollution are often the same communities being threatened with voter suppression. Unchallenged, laws restricting voting access will make it much more difficult to protect our communities from all threats, including environmental contamination, and climate change. Vote for candidates that believe voting rights are fundamental to a functioning democracy and a healthy environment. Proposal 2 in Michigan would enshrine key voting rights directly in the Michigan Constitution, recognizing the fundamental right to vote without harassment, and protecting the ability of every eligible Michigan voter to be heard.
Tackling climate change is on the ballot: While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that “without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5°C is beyond reach. Two thirds of Americans believe climate change is causing harm, and that the government is not doing enough to address it. Vote for candidates that believe this must be an overwhelming priority. In Ann Arbor, the proposed climate millage would fund the City’s ambitious A2 Zero carbon neutrality plan.
Basic bodily autonomy and freedom from coercion is on the ballot: Both environmental justice and reproductive justice include the right to make decisions about what happens to one’s own body, to make health care decisions, to decide where one lives or travels, the right to not be poisoned by the air you breathe or the water you drink, and the right to decide when and whether or not to have a child. The communities that face disproportionate burdens from air and water pollution, unhealthy homes, and detrimental impacts from climate change are the same communities that already face higher rates of maternal and infant mortality. Proposal 3 affirms that every person has the fundamental right to reproductive freedom. It ensures that all Michiganders have the right to make and carry out decisions without governmental interference about all matters relating to pregnancy, including birth control, abortion, prenatal care, and childbirth.
A livable planet is always on the ballot. Every election is consequential. This election will write our nation’s history, and the world’s history, more than most. When we vote, we help write the future, this election more than most. Please vote.