Flint, MI– Kamala Harris, Mike Pence, Joe Biden and Barack Obama have visited Flint in recent months to campaign for the presidential election.
Journalists from Brazil, France, Norway and Australia have come to Flint to do election coverage.
Robocalls targeted Flint residents specifically urging them not to vote on election day and spreading misinformation.
So what makes Flint, a city with a population of under 100,000, so important in this election?
Political journalist Jack Lessenberry and Political Science Professor at Mott Community College Paul Rozycki say it’s about what Flint represents.
“It’s not so much about the Flint vote. The city is half the size it was 30, 40 years ago,” Lessenberry said. “It’s the fact that Flint is such a symbol of governmental neglect…that more than anything else is why it’s being paid attention to.”
Rozycki said Michigan is a key state for elections, but Flint specifically has become a symbol of “the troubles of the industrial rust belt age.”
“If you’re a campaigner and you want to touch base with working class folks who’ve had a difficult time and all the rest, you come to Flint,” Rozycki said. “It’s not as many votes as Detroit or Wayne county, but it’s a symbol of these troubles.”
Flint makes up about a quarter of the population of Genesee County, and has historically had below average voter turnout.
“In off-year elections or especially when you have primaries, or elections in May, or other odd times, there’s usually very low turnout in Flint,” Rozycki said. “That boosts the strength of the county vote, so even traditional Democrat politicians like John Gleason or Deb Cherry have to rely more and more on the out county vote.”
Rozycki likened Genesee County’s liberal areas to a donut hole. He said the central areas of the county tend to vote democrat, and the rural surrounding areas generally vote republican.
For Flint to be a bigger factor in determining the outcome of county elections, Rozycki said voter turnout is key. But Flint’s declining population is a challenge.
“The decline in GM and declining strength of the UAW hurt democratic strength in Flint and Genesee county,” he said.
In 2016 in Genesee County, Hilary Clinton won 102,744 votes and Donald Trump won 84,174 votes.
Clinton received 27,773 votes from Flint, which made up a little more than a quarter of her votes from the county. Trump received 4,685 votes from Flint, which made up 0.05% of his votes from the county.
Still, Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes, and received 16 electoral votes for the state. Flint had 59.8% voter turnout that year.
Although the numbers aren’t out yet for this election, the number of absentee ballot requests have broken records, and officials have predicted higher voter turnout for Flint.
Rozycki said there are a few reasons Flint voters may be coming out more for this election.
“In some ways their priorities are very similar to the rest of the nation. Economy and jobs matter,” he said. “But I think racial justice is a key issue here given the racial makeup of the city.”
Rozycki said higher turnout in Flint usually means “good news for democrats.”
“But we’ll see if it’s strong enough to make a difference in Genesee county,” he said.