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Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

East Lansing election sees new lows in turnout

EAST LANSING—The fate of three city council chairs and three ballot proposals rested on the Nov. 7 election here in East Lansing. The election saw new lows in turnout, with the county clerk reporting less than 18% of registered voters in Ingham County showing up to the polls.

 

Matt Grossmann, Director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University, says this lack of engagement in local politics is predictable.

 

“People turn out when they have something to vote on that they know something about, and when they have sort of a long term tie to the community that they’re in, especially in local elections,” Grossmann said. “So it’s not surprising that turnout was low.” 

 

But what role did MSU students play in the lack of engagement in this year’s election?  An informal poll conducted on the MSU subreddit finds a similar lack of student engagement with only 19% of participants claiming to have voted, a trend Grossmann finds unsurprising. 

 

“People who have lived there longer are more likely to vote. And people who expect to stay in the city longer are more likely to vote,” he said. “It’s not abnormal that students would choose not to vote in a local election, but it does matter. It matters that the local city council does not need to take into consideration student views in order to get reelected.”

 

Grossmann points out that this lack of student representation in local elections can have a negative effect on students, even if they don’t plan to live in East Lansing long-term.

 

“Imagine the distribution of local opinion in East Lansing on something like housing, you are going to get a very different distribution of opinion if you’re including students who are overwhelmingly renters rather than owners, versus if you’re just including the long term residents who are mostly owners,” Grossmann said. “If you’re the kind of person who wants to complain about or have your opinion heard on like housing issues or want to attend a protest on something about policing or racial discrimination, you know, that only goes so far if that if you don’t also participate in the local government decision making where those decisions are made.”



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