Republican Vern Ehlers easily won reelection last night, defeating Democrat Henry Sanchez in a race that received little attention in the media. Despite the unpopularity of President Bush and the Republicans generally, Ehlers won with 61% of the vote compared to Sanchez’s 35%. Ehlers dramatically outspent Sanchez, raising $387,610 while Sanchez raised only $3,810. Nearly half of Ehlers’ money came from political action committees (PACs). Libertarian Erwin Haas received 4% of the votes in the race.
In other House races in Michigan, Republican Pete Hoekstra was reelected in the 2nd District. Democrats gained two House seats in Michigan, with Gary Peters defeating Republican Joe Knollenberg and Mark Schauer defeating Tim Walberg.
Democratic Senator Carl Levin was easily elected to his sixth term last night, beating Republican Jack Hoogendyk while receiving 63% of the vote compared to Hoogendyk’s 34%. Hoogendyk’s campaign was dramatically outspent, with Levin raising $8.1 million compared to Hoogendyk’s $234,000.
There were a handful of third party candidates–who despite receiving next to no attention in the media–received a small number of votes. Libertarian Scotty Boman received 76,128 votes, Green Party candidate Harley Mikkelson received 44,282, US Taxpayers Party candidate Michael Nikitin received 30,987, and Natural Law Party candidate Doug Dern received 18,798 votes. Taken together, the third party candidates received a fraction of the votes cast in the race.
While a few states–Georgia, Missouri, and Virginia–remain to close to call, Democrat Barack Obama won a major victory last night. Obama became the nation’s 44th president–and first black president–by a substantial margin (338 to 168 electoral votes). In addition, the Democrats gained seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Here in Michigan, Obama won 57% of the votes compared to 41% for McCain with 99% of precincts reporting. Third parties did not gain a substantial number of votes, with independent candidate Ralph Nader receiving the most votes at 33,207. Following Nader, the next highest vote getter was Libertarian Bob Barr with 23,871. Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney received only 9,081 votes.
USA Today is reporting that Barack Obama won Kent County by a slim but significant margin. They have Obama at 49.4% (149,855 votes) and McCain at 48.9% (148,305). In 2004, Republican George W. Bush won by an almost 19% margin.
Democracy Now’s special “The Morning After” election coverage is available in a live stream. During the broadcast, Democracy Now will offer analysis and insight into the election:
Following the conclusion of the live stream, the program will be archived on DemocracyNow.org.
An organization called Video the Vote has organized citizen journalists and activists to document voter suppression and disenfranchisement across the country.
Citizen journalists have already documented problems in Michigan including a man who expressed frustration over long lines in Detroit.
Videos from Michigan will be added throughout the day.
After standing in line for up to three hours to cast a vote, it should become obvious that there is a serious need for electoral reform. Even if one excludes the bigger questions–such as the system’s being rigged against third party candidates–there are a number of simple reforms that could be made to make elections run more smoothly.
The Michigan Election Reform Alliance–a group working to improve elections in Michigan–has proposed a host of changes that they argue would help the system. Among their suggestions:
* No reason absentee voting.
* Registration shall be permitted during the day of an election at the local clerk’s office, or, at the clerk’s discretion, at the precinct.
* The current requirement shall be dropped so that first-time voters who register by mail no longer must vote in person.
* Mandate a higher minimum number of voting booth requirements per precinct for general elections — 1 booth per 50 registered voters, providing capacity for 200 voters per hour. The current state requirement of only 1 booth per 300 registered voters, if literally applied, permits only 40 voters per hour.
* Require automatic, random, hand count audits by trained, independent auditors.
* A full recount by hand of the voter verified paper ballots shall be mandated for any race or ballot initiative in which the margin of victory recorded on the first full tabulation of the ballots is 2% or less.
* Rotate which party’s candidate is listed first on the ballot so that each candidate is listed first in an approximately equal number of precincts.
Unfortunately, election reform is an issue that has not gotten much attention. After the problems with elections in 2000 and 2004, most of the discussion centered on increasing the use of technology rather than reforming how elections are conducted.
According to reports by the local independent and corporate media, there are long lines across West Michigan for voting. MediaMouse.org has received reports throughout the day of waiting times anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour and a half. Reports are coming in from the corporate media of waits as long as three hours at Alexander Elementary School. Readers over at WestMichiganRising.com are reporting lengthy waits and high turnouts.
Across the country, turnout is expected to be considerably higher than in past elections. Despite a Republican attempt to use foreclosure lists to challenge voters, there have yet to be any reports of problems with poll challengers. However, scattered reports are coming in across Michigan of problems with voting machines. The Michigan Messenger is reporting that the Oakland County Clerk had questioned the accuracy of voting machines prior to the election.
Tomorrow is the final day of the closely watched presidential election. While most people no doubt have already determined who and what they are voting for, there is a wealth of information on MediaMouse.org to help you make a decision if you are still undecided.
Our Election Watch feature has a wide variety of coverage of the elections including voting guides and analyses of the media’s coverage of the election. In addition, there are a number of feature stories covering the election.
If you are voting tomorrow, you can head over to Publius.org to find your polling place. It might also be worth reading up on your rights at the polls in Michigan. Additionally, if you have problems voting, you can call 1-866-OUR-VOTE for access to lawyers.
Finally, it’s important to remember that while a lot of people and organizations have put considerable emphasis on tomorrow’s elections, voting is just one tactic for pursuing social change. Please take the time to consider how you will stay involved after the election. Regardless of the outcome of the election, a lot of work remains to be done in pursuit of a more just world.
The Justice at Stake Campaign–a watchdog group that works to keep special interests out of the courts–has declared that Michigan’s Supreme Court race is the “Nation’s Dirtiest.”
According to the organization, a “flood” of television ads in the election between Republican Chief Justice Cliff Taylor and Democratic challenger Diane Hathaway have turned the campaign into “an orgy of negativity.” Television ads have been primarily “attack ads” while the race has been “marked by heavy spending and organized attempts by special interests, political parties and an emerging class of “superdonors” to pack courts with judges to their liking.” More than $1 million was spent on advertising by Taylor’s campaign and his supporters in the two-week period ending October 24. The amount is more than four times what his opponent spent.
Despite the spending, polls indicate that 57% of voters in Michigan are undecided in the race. While that may reflect an aversion to negative advertising, it also probably has a lot to do with the lack of substantive coverage of the race and a focus by the media on the presidential race.