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Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II said Saturday in Flint that while he recognizes there are many unusual factors at play in the 2020 election, increased voter participation–including in downballot races–is “a new standard” for future elections.
“I like to think about this as a new standard. We need to pay attention to the entire ballot,” Gilchrist said during a visit to Flint for a campaign event in support of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. “One of the things that disappoints me the most is the tens of thousands of people who didn’t fill out complete ballots in 2016. I want to see 100% complete ballots this year.”
Gilchrist was speaking at a stop on a four-day bus tour organized by the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden that has featured various state candidates and elected officials.
Michigan voters have been paying an increased amount of attention to downballot races in 2020, with party control of the U.S. Senate, Michigan House of Representatives and state Supreme Court within reach for Democrats in addition to the White House race at the top of the ticket.
Elizabeth Welch, the non-partisan Michigan Supreme Court candidate nominated by the Michigan Democratic Party, said the recent court order invalidating Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders intended to fight the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates that seat’s importance.
“If you care about voting rights, if you care about public health, if you care about water, if you care about criminal justice, if you care about access to justice in the court system and making sure the court system operates in a more fair fashion, you have to care about the Supreme Court,” Welch said.
U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) said the state Supreme Court’s decision in the emergency powers case shows they are out of touch with public opinion.
“When the decisions that are made by one branch of government in the name of public health and safety can be overturned because we don’t have a judicial branch that represents the collective values of our state, one of the ways to make sure we change that is to elect people who do represent us, who represent our values, who understand the basic goodness of people of this state,” Kildee said.
The state Supreme Court currently consists of four conservative justices and three liberal justices. Justice Stephen Markman, who was appointed by Republican Gov. John Engler in 1999, has reached his mandatory retirement age and is not eligible to seek re-election.
“We have an open seat this year. That almost never happens. It is a huge opportunity – a generational opportunity, given that we serve long terms,” Welch added. “This is our moment to make the courts more fair and balanced.”
Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack, a Democrat, is also up for re-election this year. McCormack and Welch are running against Republican candidates Brock Swartzle and Mary Beth Kelly on the non-partisan section of the ballot.
Party control of the state House is also on the ballot this year. Republicans currently hold a narrow majority in the chamber, with 58 Republican representatives to 52 Democratic representatives. Democrats would need a net gain of at least four seats to flip the chamber.
“The Michigan House is in play. We need to flip four seats in the Michigan House, I think we can do that. We need to elect Elizabeth Welch and Bridget McCormack to the Supreme Court to change the majority of the Supreme Court,” Gilchrist said. “We have the opportunity to do that–if we maximize voter turnout.”
Kildee emphasized the importance of this election to Flint voters.
“Jim [Ananich] said this is the most important election of our lifetime. That’s actually right, but I’ll go a step further: this is the most important election in the life of our country,” Kildee said. “Because everything that so many people have worked for, fought for, died for is on the ballot.”