Low turnout in midterm elections is leaving some to try to switch Michigan's gubernatorial elections from midterm to presidential elections.
Recent history suggests such a change could boost voter turnout in elections for statewide office by as much as 50% — a development that would likely make Democratic candidates more competitive in those elections.
And preliminary polling suggests the proposal could be a hit with Michigan voters. In a randomized telephone survey of 600 Michigan voters conducted last week by EPIC-MRA, 60% of those polled expressed tentative support for conducting presidential and statewide elections on the same day, while just 32% were opposed to or leaning against it.
The proposed change is also getting a warm reception from nonpartisan voter advocacy groups such as the League of Women Voters and Common Cause, whose leaders argue that representative government works most effectively when voter participation is most robust.
There are some who believe that turnout in gubernatorial elections is largely driven by the race for governor (as opposed to, say, races for Congress or local offices). To the extent that that's true, then this likely won't help Democrats when it comes to turnout in still-very-important midterm elections - especially in 2022, when there won't be a US Senate race on the ballot in Michigan. So while this may pay off for Democrats in terms of winning the governorship, this also brings with it the risk of making our midterm turnout problem worse
That being said, in 2014 turnout was only 1.1% higher in states with gubernatorial elections than in states without. It's hard to argue that turnout is substantially affected by the presence or absence of a gubernatorial race on the ballot.
As for the prospects of its passage... that's harder to tell.
For it to pass, voters need to (a) know what it's about and (b) like it. The proposal would likely be simple enough to understand, so the first threshold would be easy to meet.
But will voters like it? Opponents would surely spend a sizable amount of money and energy to convince people that this would somehow be bad. If supporters of this proposal can't effectively counter by making people feel like this proposal is worth it, then how will it pass?
At any rate, I have yet to see the details of an actual proposal, so I'm not yet ready to take a position on this. I would, however, be more supportive of moving State Senate elections to Presidential years. I would also be supportive of other efforts to boost turnout in midterm elections.