General Election 2020: A Preview and Guide

Illustration by Emma Crevier

Next Tuesday, November 3, is Election Day in Michigan. Last March, Michiganders chose primary candidates for the presidency from each party, and did the same for other seats at national, state, and local levels in August. Those candidates who were successful in the primaries will now face one another in the General Election. While some races are uncontested, some have nominees from both the Democratic and Republican parties. There are also several candidates representing third parties or who are running with no party affiliation.

For those who have not yet turned in absent voter ballots or who are planning to cast their vote in person on Election day, Watershed Voice has compiled the following guide to races that will appear on area ballots to provide readers with information about who is running and where to go for voting.

Polling Locations, Absentee Ballots, and Voter Registration

Most Michigan polling places will be open on election day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and eligible voters still in line at 8 p.m. will be permitted to vote. Voters who are concerned about pandemic safety can try to vote during less busy hours, such as mid-afternoon or later in the evening, or by absentee ballot. In Three Rivers, in-person voting takes place at Riverside Church, 207 East Michigan Avenue.

For Three Rivers residents, absentee ballots and voter registration documents are available at the City Clerk’s Office, located in City Hall at 333 West Michigan Avenue. Prior to Election Day, Three Rivers City Hall is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Outside of Three Rivers, each local jurisdiction has its own polling location. In most townships, voting takes place at township halls, where most township clerks’ offices are also located. The St. Joseph County Clerk’s office maintains a list of current polling locations around the county on its website.

Amid the ongoing pandemic, and under Michigan law, any state resident may vote by absentee ballot. Absent voter ballots are still available from local clerks, and anyone may request one. However, election officials are recommending that voters do not turn them in by mail at this late date. Instead, clerks are making ballot drop boxes available in each jurisdiction.

Anyone who previously requested an absentee voter ballot in the primary election should know that ordinarily, an absent voter ballot request must be submitted individually and separately for each election. Some previous request forms provided an option to automatically be registered to receive absent voter ballots for all elections, but because the system is new, some processing errors may occur. If a voter is expecting an absentee ballot and has not received one, they should see or contact their local clerk.

According to the St. Joseph County Clerk’s website, absent voter ballots must be received by clerk’s offices no later than 4 p.m. Friday, October 30. Anyone who is eligible to vote by absentee ballot may also vote in person at their local clerk’s office any time up to 4 p.m. the day before the election.

If a family death or illness requires a voter to leave their community on election day, thus preventing them from voting in person, a voter may request an Emergency Absent Voter Ballot. The emergency has to have occurred late enough to prevent the voter from filing a regular request for an absent voter ballot. The deadline for returning Emergency ballots is 8 p.m. on Election Day.

In-person voter registration is permitted anytime until polls close on election day. Since the postmark deadline for mail-in registration has passed, anyone wishing to vote in this year’s primary election must register to vote in person with their city or township clerk.

Guide to the Candidates: U.S. Races

Near the top of each ballot will be candidates for the seats of President and Vice President of the United States. As the Republican incumbents, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence face off against Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris on the Democratic ticket.

Four third parties are also fielding presidential and vice-presidential candidates. Howie Hawkins and Angela Nicole Walker represent the Green Party, and Jo Jorgensen and Spike Cohen are representing the Libertarian Party. Roque De La Fuente and Darcy Richardson are running for the Natural Law Party, and Don Blankenship and William Mohr are on the U.S. Taxpayers Party ticket.

In the race for U.S. House of Representatives in Michigan’s 6th Congressional District, incumbent Representative Fred Upton, a Republican, faces Democrat Jon Hoadley. Other candidates in the race include John Lawrence (Green Party), Jeff DePoy (Libertarian Party), and Andrew Tidwell (independent).

Michigan’s U.S. Senators are both Democrats. They are Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters. Since senators serve staggered, six-year terms, only Peters’ seat is open in this year’s race. He is being challenged by Republican John James. The seat is also being challenged by Marcia Squier (Green Party), Doug Dern (Natural Law Party), and Valerie Willis (U.S. Taxpayers Party).

Guide to the Candidates: State Races

At the State Level, Steve Carra represents the Republican Party for the seat of Representative in the State Legislature for the 59th District against Amy East on the Democratic ticket during the general election in November. The winner of that race will replace current State Representative Aaron Miller, who is not running again.

St. Joseph County is in the 21st District of the Michigan State Senate. The Senate seat is currently held by Kim LaSata, whose term ends in 2022, and whose seat is therefore not open this election, and will not appear on this year’s ballots.

In addition to the legislative seat, at the state level there are also races for positions on three courts. Two seats are open on the Michigan Supreme Court, and seven candidates are available to fill those seats. They include Susan L. Hubbard, Mary Kelly, Bridget Mary McCormack, Kerry Lee Morgan, Katherine Mary Nepton, Brock Swartzle, and Elizabeth M. Welch.

Three candidates are on the ballot for three open seats on the First District Court of Appeals. They include Karen Fort Hood, Anica Letica, and Christopher M. Murray. Current Judge Jeffrey Middleton is unchallenged for his position in the 3B District Court. Candidates for judgeships and justice positions typically run unaffiliated with any party.

There are two positions open on the State Board of Education. Candidates for that board include Democrats Ellen Cogen Lipton and Jason Strayhorn, Republicans Tami Carlone and Michelle A. Frederick, Libertarians Bill Hall and Richard A. Hewer, U.S. Taxpayer Party candidates Karen Adams and Douglas Levesque, Working Class Party candidates Mary Anne Hering and Hali McEachern, and Tom Mair (Green Party).

There are also two open seats each on the University of Michigan Board of Regents, the Michigan State University Board of Trustees, and the Wayne State University Board of Governors.

For the University of Michigan, candidates include Democrats Mark Bernstein and Shauna Ryder Diggs, as well as Republicans Sarah Hubbard and Carl Meyers and Libertarians James L. Hudler and Eric Larson. Other candidates include Ronald E. Graeser and Crystal Van Sickle (U.S. Taxpayers Party), Michael Mawilai (Green Party), and Keith Butkovich (Natural Law Party).

For Michigan State University, Democrats include Brian Mosallam and Rema Ella Vassar, and Republicans include Pat O’Keefe and Tonya Schuitmaker. Other candidates include Will Tyler White (Libertarian Party), Janet M. Sanger and John Paul Sanger (U.S. Taxpayers Party), Brandon Hu and Robin Lea Laurain (Green Party), and Bridgette Abraham-Guzman (Natural Law Party).

In the Wayne State University race, Eva Garza Dewaelsche and Shirley Stancato represent the Democrats, and Don Gates and Terri Lynn Land represent the Republicans. Other candidates include Jon Elgas (Libertarian), Christine C. Schwartz (U.S. Taxpayers Party), and Susan Odgers (Green Party).

Election Guide: State Proposals

In addition to the candidate races, there are two state proposals on the ballot. Proposal 20-1 would create a state constitutional amendment “to allow money from oil and gas mining on state-owned lands to continue to be collected in state funds for land protection and creation and maintenance of parks, nature areas, and public recreation facilities; and to describe how money in those state funds can be spent.

Proposal 20-2 would also create a state constitutional amendment. The proposed amendment would establish that a search warrant would be required “in order to access a person’s electronic data or electronic communications.

Guide to the Candidates: County and Three Rivers Races

For the St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners, three incumbents are unchallenged, including Dennis Allen (District 3), Daniel R. Czajkowski (District 4), and Kenneth L. Malone (District 5). All three are Republicans.

However, the County Commission does include two contested races. In District One, Democrat Andrew George will face Republican Jared Hoffmaster in the general election. Matthew Mosher is also running for the seat without party affiliation. The winner will replace Allen Balog. In District Two, Democrat Kathy Greaves will face Republican incumbent Kathy Pangle.

In law enforcement, Republican David Marvin is unchallenged after defeating embroiled incumbent John McDonough in the August 2020 primary. Incumbent Sheriff Mark Lillywhite is also a Republican and also unchallenged for his seat.

In other county-level races, Kathy Humphreys is up for seat of County Treasurer/Finance Officer. As presumptive winner, she will replace Judith Ratering, who is retiring. Current County Clerk Lindsay Oswald is unchallenged to retain her position. The same is true for Drain Commissioner Jeffery Wenzel and Surveyor David Mostrom. All four candidates are Republicans. There were no Democratic candidates for those races.

Two candidates are up for open seats on the Glen Oaks Community College Board of Trustees. They include P. Joseph Haas, Jr., and Nancy A. Percival. Both are listed without party affiliation.

In the City of Three Rivers, four incumbent City Commissioners will be unchallenged for each of their seats on the ballot. They include At-Large Commissioners Daryl Griffith and Clayton Lyczynski II, Second District Commissioner Alison Haigh, and Fourth District Commissioner Carolyn McNary. They are listed without party affiliation.

For the Three Rivers Community Schools Board of Education, which has four seats open in this election, candidates are also listed without party affiliation. Those candidates include incumbents Julia M. Awe, Geraldine Jaramillo, and Anne M. Riopel, as well as Melissa Bliss, Ryan D. Cox, and Ben Karle.

Guide to the Candidates: Township Races

In Park Township, Republican John English remains unchallenged for the seat of Township Supervisor. Republicans Michael Lee Kinne and Thomas M. Springer are unchallenged for the two available Trustee seats, as is Cindy Fenwick for Treasurer. Lari J. Roberts is unchallenged for the position of Township Clerk. All are Republicans.

In Lockport Township, Mark Major remains the unchallenged incumbent for the seat of Township Supervisor. Rick Daniels and Donna Grubbs are up for two available Township Trustee seats. Republican Christine Trammell will face Democrat Penny Ream for the Township Clerk position. Republican Mike Friesner faces Democrat Elvontio Peterson for the Treasurer’s seat.

In Fabius Township, Ken Linn beat Daniel K. Wilkins in the primary by only three votes for the Township Supervisor position, and he runs unchallenged in the general election next week. Judy Holman and Cliff Maxwell face no opposition for the two available Trustee positions. Carol Wilkins is unopposed for Township Clerk, Cindy Haradine is unchallenged for Treasurer, and Don Falborski faces no competiton for the seat of Constable. All Fabius Township candidates are Republicans.

Dave Vago is a writer and columnist for Watershed Voice. A Philadelphia native with roots in Three Rivers, Vago is a planning consultant to history and community development organizations and is the former Executive Director of the Three Rivers DDA/Main Street program.