Nothing average about this year’s elections

By J. PATRICK PEPPER
Times-Herald Newspapers

Michigan’s political landscape is primed for a massive change this election season with a continually poor economy wearing on voters, a huge number of offices up for election, and, as if things weren’t complicated enough, a ballot question on whether or not to rewrite the state constitution.

Add in the several recent public opinion polls that indicate a growing frustration with government irrespective of party preference, and this election season seems destined for intrigue. The reasons are myriad.

Unemployment statewide for the month of June was at 13.2 percent, second-highest in the country behind only Nevada.

Locally, the problem is even more acute. June unemployment statistics for the Detroit-Dearborn-Livonia area, the narrowest subdivision tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, was a lofty 14.3 percent. And in April, the area was named the fourth-worst job market in the entire country.

As pervasive as unemployment has been, so too is the unrelenting foreclosure epidemic.

According to the real estate data Website RealtyTrac.com, one in 34 Wayne County houses were in some stage of foreclosure through the first six months of 2010. Again, the local figures eclipse the broader average – Dearborn’s foreclosure rate during the same period is 1 in 29 households.

Compounding the uncertainty is the electoral free-for-all that is the Michigan Legislature. The entire Senate is up for election this year, and because of term limits, a new face will fill three out of four seats when the final ballots are tallied, including the 3rd District in Dearborn where current Sen. Irma Clark-Coleman (D-Detroit) cannot seek re-election.

The upheaval is only half as much in the Michigan House of Representatives, where nearly 50 percent of seats are up for election, including 15th and 11th districts in Dearborn and the 16th and 17th districts in Dearborn Heights. The 15th and 17th are among those guaranteed to see a new representative as current office holders Gino Polidori (D-Dearborn) and Andy Dillon (D-Redford Township), respectively, are term limited.

Voters will consider all of those issues in November, but it likely will be Tuesday that proves to be the deciding factor for most races. Because of gerrymandering – the process of dividing voting districts so as to give an advantage to one party – many general elections are but a mere formality.

However, historical voter turnout numbers suggest that less that 20 percent of voters will head to their precinct on Tuesday.

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