Whitmer, Nessel, Dems urge residents to vote during virtual rally

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel | Andrew Roth

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and a bevy of other Michigan Democratic politicians during a Saturday virtual rally conveyed support for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and called on residents to vote in the Nov. 3 general election.

The two-hour “Vote Michigan” event was organized by the Lansing-area affiliate of the Blue Brigade, a group who says their goal is to flip the White House, U.S. Senate and take back state legislatures from Republicans in 2020.

Biden appeared in a segment of the virtual rally, but made no specific reference to Michigan. The former vice president made a campaign stop in the state earlier this week. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at the virtual rally

Whitmer reiterated her support for Biden, but used part of her segment to tell viewers it’s critical for Democrats to win back the majority of the Michigan House in 2020. Both chambers of the state Legislature are currently GOP-controlled. The entire House is up in November, but the Senate is not on the ballot until 2022.

Carl Levin, a retired U.S. senator, joined the rally to commend Whitmer for her handling of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, for negotiating with Republicans to plug a $2.2 billion hole in the state’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget and for her response to a “once in 500 years flood” that occurred in Midland in May.

During her appearance, Nessel encouraged Michigan residents to register to vote, while Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack — who was nominated by Democrats last month to run for reelection to one of the high court’s two seats — directed viewers to her campaign website.

The Supreme Court is currently divided 4-3 in favor of GOP-nominated justices.

Democrat Elizabeth Welch, a West Michigan attorney who’s vying for another position on the court, told viewers to ensure they don’t miss casting votes for the two seats. 

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“The state Supreme Court cannot be overlooked as the third branch of government. It’s the final decision maker on laws, from criminal justice matters to civil rights to water issues in schools,” Welch said. “The court makes huge decisions that truly impact your life. It’s extremely important that you flip over your ballot and vote the nonpartisan section.”

The two Republicans nominated for Supreme Court are Appeals Court Judge Brock Swartzle and attorney Mary Kelly. 

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) urged voters to cast ballots for fellow U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.), who faces Republican John James in November.

“Voting is one of the best ways to make sure that we can help set the course, that we can chart the future we want to live in,” said state Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo), who is running against longtime U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) in the 6th Congressional District. 

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Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope and Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum walked viewers through the steps of obtaining and casting an absentee ballot — a method of voting that’s been used more widely during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“When you receive your ballot, vote it, and send it back to your local clerk as soon as possible. You may mail it to your clerk,” said Byrum, a Democrat who is facing off with Republican Joseph Werner on Nov. 3. “Allow at least two weeks for the mail to get there and make sure you have sufficient postage. Better yet, though, you can hand deliver that voted ballot back to your local clerk or put it in their dropbox.

“If I may be of any assistance to you, please reach out to me via social media or email at [email protected],” she added. 

Byrum last week asked Whitmer to issue an executive order allowing absentee ballots to be pre-processed by election clerks 24 to 48 hours before Election Day. Clerks anticipate a large, unprecedented wave of absentee ballots will be cast in the general election.