If Republicans took over the country with the White House and a majority in the House and merely maintaining filibuster ability in Senate, Michigan could be a blue print for what is in store for us.
Detroit is facing a crisis. It may not be able to conduct a Presidential election due to lack of funding in the budget. Detroit spent $1.49 million on the 2008 Presidential election, and this year requested $1.2 million but was only granted $737,000.
After Detroit Mayor Dave Bing (D) cut the budget for the Presidential election in half and cut the Department of Elections by 25%, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey said there is no way they can conduct the 2012 Presidential election due to their inability to comply with federal law under the severe budget constraints. The Mayor tried to pass this off as shared sacrifices, but sacrificing the root of democracy itself is not exactly the same thing as cutting salaries.
The Detroit Free Press reported the clerk as saying, “You can’t do it. You just can’t do it. We’re mandated by law to do certain things, to have certain things in place, to have a certain number of poll workers. There’s no way we can conduct a presidential election.”
In Detroit, one out of two eligible voters turned out to vote for President Obama in 2008. Detroit is a big city in a state where a Republican presidential candidate hasn’t won since George H.W. Bush in 1988.
Romney should have a home state advantage in Michigan, with his father being a former Governor as well as being a Presidential candidate. But Romney’s stand against the auto bailouts have hurt him in Michigan. His exact quote was “Let Detroit go bankrupt.” Now, he and his Republicans are doing just that. The thinking seems to be that if the voters are going to punish you for your positions, you can just render them powerless to vote.
In the 2008 election, Democrat Obama was the victor among every age group of Michigan voter, but was particularly popular among voters under 30 years old (68% representing 20% of voters) and African-Americans (97% representing 12% of voters.)
In the last four presidential elections, Michigan voted as follows:
• 2008 – 57% for Democrat Obama, 41% for Republican McCain
• 2004 – 51% for Democrat Kerry, 48% for Republican Bush
• 2000 – 51% for Democrat Gore, 46% for Republican Bush
• 1996 – 52% for Democrat Clinton, 39% for Republican Dole, 9% for Other
The data for registered voters in Michigan shows Wayne County (Detroit is a large portion of Wayne County) with a total of 1,347,245 voters. Consider the impact if those voters can’t vote, in a state with a TOTAL of 7,286,556 registered voters. These numbers indicate that 18% of Michigan voters are in Wayne County. (Wayne County is bigger than Detroit, but Detroit is the major city within the County). McCain lost Michigan by 16% in 2008. Ostensibly, if Detroit couldn’t vote, it would be fair to say assume that it would create a huge opportunity for a Republican Presidential candidate to take the state, as well as assisting with down ticket votes.
The Detroit mayor is trying to make enough cuts to avoid the city being taken over by a “financial advisory board” (code for replacing elected officials with highly overpaid gubernatorial puppets). Right now, the Detroit City Council is trying to determine how much to pay the “Chief Financial Officer” bestowed upon them. Huffington Post reported:
The state office, working with the mayor’s office, developed job descriptions and salary ranges. Advisers originally recommended the CFO be paid between $190,000 and $280,00, plus benefits, and the PMD $160,000 to $250,000.
But City Council members said that was way too much.
“When I saw this salary range I almost fell out of my chair,” said Member Saunteel Jenkins. “It shouldn’t go over what the highest [salary] is for a municipality.”
While they make cuts to elections as well as to police and firefighters, the Governor has determined that they have the money to pay the CFO more than the Mayor himself. Interesting set of values. Worse yet, the Governor names three people for the seat and the mayor gets to pick from them for the CFO. The Governor makes the city pay for this advisory board, to the tune of $1 million.
If I had a million dollars and had to chose between holding a Presidential election or paying an overpaid CFO and advisory board to “manage” the city, what would I do? I guess that would depend on my values.
If I were a Republican who didn’t care about democracy and whose party would benefit without elections, and I’d already proven that I didn’t believe in elected officials running their cities (hello, Rick Snyder) and I wanted to give Michigan to the Republican Presidential candidate in 2012, I’d find a way to keep the big city of Detroit (read: Democrats) from voting. What better way to accomplish that than to threaten them with complete takeover if they can’t cut their election budget so low as to render them unable to comply with the law?
The City Clerk from a wealthy nearby suburb said that per voter, her district election is costing the same as Detroit. This begs the question yet again if Michigan is still a democracy. If poor districts can be denied the right to vote because they can’t “afford” the election process, what next?
Under federal law, it is not legal to refuse to hold an election. Detroit has to hold an election, but if they do, will the election process purposefully disenfranchise Democratic voters by resulting in long lines, short hours, and lack of staff?
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Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.