Electoral Digest

National DSA Electoral Committee Strategy & Huron Valley DSA Endorsement Process

Huron Valley DSA’s approach to electoral politics currently relies on entryism. We are encouraging our members to join the Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) due to the duopoly of ballot access and the lack of a viable third party in the Huron Valley area and elsewhere. The HVDSA Electoral Committee has worked with groups like Ann Arbor for Revolution in an attempt to push the party to in a direction favorable to the progressive and democratic socialist left. We aim to aid candidates who intend to win; the MDP’s infrastructure is a useful instrument to that end. For instance, we received training in the usage of VAN (the Voter Activation Network) through our involvement with the state party Progressive Caucus and helped organize a forum between Democratic candidates for the 18th State Senate District.

Jeff Irwin and Michelle Deatrick
18th District State Senate candidates Jeff Irwin and Michelle Deatrick at a forum HVDSA helped organize with the MDP Progressive Caucus

Additionally, we are supporting electorally the existing network of labor and environmental advocacy groups that comprise the left wing of the state party in every way we can. An important part of that effort has been our drive to enroll the members of the Electoral Committee in the MDP in order to turn out for the statewide April Nomination Convention, where multiple progressive candidates are seeking the MDP’s nomination. We also turned out our members in cooperation with the aforementioned ally groups to local and county Democratic Party meetings to elect our members and allies to the convention committees, helping to ensure that the Democratic Party machine does not impede our efforts to move the party leftward. Coalition-building with other electorally-oriented progressive groups is the name of this game.

Our overall approach has many similarities to the National Electoral Strategy adopted by the DSA National Political Committee. Instead of the traditional “assisting the campaign” approach, we have taken on the strategy that HVDSA will build its own capacity to run down-ballot campaigns: training canvassers, collecting and maintaining its own data, developing campaign messaging that reflects the chapter’s own voice and set of priorities, and researching electoral opportunities and policy issues without having to rely on outside expertise.

Anuja Rajendra and Matthew Miller
Anuja Rajendra and Matthew Miller at a forum HVDSA helped organize with the MDP Progressive Caucus

Several HVDSA Electoral Committee members are working on the Ad Hoc Database and Mapping Committee to develop a database where we can track our engagement with voters during canvassing drives and phone banks. The database committee has developed web-scraping tools to extract tax assessor information from the counties that comprise Huron Valley. This database contains information such as owner name, property values, and geographical coordinates. The next step from an electoral perspective is to introduce the data from the Michigan Qualified Voter File, thereby building the basis for our own voter database.

We are also developing a mobile phone app that will act as a front-end to this database; any HVDSA member will be able to cut digital turfs of their community to set up canvassing events on their own, thereby democratizing convenient access to the data. This database will allow HVDSA members to gather and analyze voter data for use in our electoral and issue-based organizing beyond the 2018 election cycle. Furthermore, development of this software will enable our chapter to canvass for candidates who advocate for issues we find important without subordinating our canvassing efforts to the MDP, which would hoard data collected with our labor in a proprietary and prohibitively expensive database.

The HVDSA Electoral Committee has established a democratic and transparent process for endorsing candidates. The Committee will reach out to any candidate in which an HVDSA member expresses interest to inform the candidate of the endorsement process and ask the candidate to complete a written questionnaire and/or interview with members of the Committee. Once completed, the full Committee will discuss the candidate and vote on whether to propose endorsement to the full chapter. Members not present will have the opportunity to vote electronically.

Meg Berkobien and Suby Raman
HVDSA co-chair Meg Berkobien and Suby Raman moderated the 18th District State Senate forum

If the Committee votes to propose endorsement, members write up a proposal to be distributed via email at least one week in advance of the next General Meeting. The Committee will make its case for endorsement of the candidate at the meeting and a two-thirds majority vote of members present is required to actually endorse.

Covering Washtenaw, Lenawee, Jackson, Livingston, and Hillsdale Counties, HVDSA’s territory is quite large and our active membership is concentrated in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti metropolitan area. If you know of a particular race you think HVDSA should consider endorsing a candidate in, or are just interested in getting involved in canvassing, phone-banking or database development, please contact Electoral Committee Chair Aaron Ross at aaross (at) umich.edu.

2018 Washtenaw County Election Guide

If you live in Washtenaw County, you will have the opportunity to vote in up to three elections, depending on the municipality and school district in which you are registered. It is our hope that armed with this guide, you will be able to make the most out of your vote.

The Basics

There will be two big elections in Washtenaw County in 2018. Mark your calendars today. The primary election is on August 7th. The general election is on November 6th. If you live in the Ann Arbor Public School District, Sharon Township, or Ypsilanti Township, you’re in luck: you have an election on May 8th.

It’s a good idea to start making a plan for each election day now. Verify your voter registration now, and update it if needed. Michigan does not allow same day voter registration. In fact, you need to be registered at least 30 days before the date of an election. So if you just moved to Sharon Township and you’d like to vote on the proposal to provide municipal broadband on May 8th, you had until April 9th to register. You can update your registration at your city clerk’s office or at any Michigan Secretary of State office.

The Elections

As stated above, the first election of the season will be for those registered to vote in the Ann Arbor Public School District, Sharon Township, or Ypsilanti Township. The proposal in AAPS is to re-authorize the 18 mil operating millage for the school district. In Michigan, property taxes are calculated using units called mills, which are equal to one one thousandth of a property’s taxable value. Without getting too much into the weeds, taxable value is about one half of market value. So if you own a home, and it’s worth $200k, your taxable value would be $100k. An 18 mil property tax would cost you $1800 per year. Sharon Township residents will be voting on whether the Township should take out a loan, not exceeding $4,900,000 to build a municipal broadband system. Ypsilanti Township residents will be voting for a 0.50 mil tax to provide equipment for the Ypsilanti Township Fire Department and to fill a vacancy on the Township Parks Commission. You can read more about the proposals here.

The August primary election is arguably the most important election for many areas in Washtenaw County in 2018. The urban core of the county is so reliably blue, that whoever wins the Democratic primary race is all but a shoe-in come November. Also, the Cities of Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, along with Ionia, are the only municipalities with partisan mayoral and city council races. This means whoever wins the August primary in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti will likely win the November general election too. In August, residents of the City of Ann Arbor, the City of Ypsilanti, and Ypsilanti Township will have the opportunity to vote to continue the AAATA Millage. Now is the time to think. Will you be on vacation on the second Tuesday of August? If so, you are going to want to make arrangements to get an absentee ballot. Set a reminder for July 4th, so you won’t forget to get your ballot.

While many of the local races have been all but determined in August, there are several important statewide races that will need high turnout in November: Governor, Secretary of State, and Attorney General. There will also likely be a hotly contested election to oust Republicans Tim Walberg and Mike Bishop from Michigan’s 7th and 8th Congressional Districts. The 7th district includes western Washtenaw.

Finally, remember these elections are not just about you. It’s important to get your friends and neighbors to participate as well. Plant the seed of civic participation in them today by sharing this article with them. Also, make sure you bug them about updating their registration and maksing sure they are planning to vote in all the elections. Turnout will likely be low, especially in the August election so it is important to mobilize as many voters as possible.

Important Electoral Dates:

May 8: Special election for some municipalities within Washtenaw County

July 7: Registration deadline for August 7 primary election

August 7: Primary elections across the state

October 9: Registration deadline for November 6 general election

November 6: 2018 midterm elections