Falling into order for the November Election: Political Advocacy in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Falling into order for the November Election: Political Advocacy in Ann Arbor, Michigan

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Yells of “Do you like science, even a little bit? Do you love to dance? Does translation interest you?” were echoed across the diag (or the center) of the University of Michigan’s (U of M) campus this past week. The event Festifall introduced various student organizations to new and returning students. This year’s Festifall saw the return and arrival of many of the 1300 organizations active on campus. Involvement in organizations is encouraged by staff and students alike as the university strives to develop leaders and active citizens. Students who have dedicated many hours of their time to their cause of choice are reaching out to new students so that their legacy may continue even as they become alumni.

Photo caption: University of Michigan student supporting Gretchen Driskell (D), member of the Michigan House of Representatives representing the 52nd District (photo credit: Emily Young)

As many university campuses in the United States do, U of M sponsors, hosts, and provides for a safe and open political dialogue. The First Amendment is upheld and publicity covers the surfaces of major buildings, bulletin boards, and surfaces spacious enough to be plastered with different thoughts and ideas.

   Student Democrats with their inspirational cardboard cutout

University of Michigan student assisting in voter registration and informing young voters about their civic rights at this year's Festifall (photo credit: Emily Young)

One of the most common questions raised at Festifall was “Are you registered to vote?” or “Would you like to register to vote?” Students assisting in voter registration informed prospective voters about their civic rights and passed out pamphlets from the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. The pamphlets contained information concerning ages for voting, registration, the photo ID policy and how to avoid problems when entering the polls this upcoming Election Day, November 8th.  An entire section of the space was dedicated to various political entities that deal with issues and include organizations such as Students For Life or Students for Choice. These particular organizations deal with the issue of whether abortion should or should not be legal. College Republicans, College Democrats, and Michigan Political Union (an organization dedicated to bringing about discussion between students of all political views and affiliations) were also all present boasting a slew of events to get in gear for the upcoming election.


Poster and campaign announcement by the Green Party on the U of M campus (photo: credit: Emily Young)

What I found to be relevant to the Ann Arbor student body however, was the presence of members of a campaign under the heading Students for Gretchento supportGretchen Driskell who is running for congress.  She was even scheduled to attend the upcoming Student Democratic meeting, that would also host congresswoman Debbie Dingell, the commissioner for Ann Arbor Yousef Rabhi (who is running for state representation of Michigan), and candidate Gretchen Driskell’s campaign manager Keenan Pontoni.


At the Student Democratic mass meeting held on Sunday September 11th, current congresswoman Debbie Dingell,the representative of the 12th district in Michigan, spoke to the college democrats about the upcoming election. She disclosed how to be present on campus and hold conversations not only about the Presidential race, but all of the races that will be present on the ballot in November that affect communities on a federal, state and local level. Congresswoman Dingell proclaimed the election as “the most important of your lifetime” for millennials. She pronounced that individuals should vote first as Americans, second as party members. More specifically she addressed the rights endowed to Americans by the U.S. Constitution such as Freedom of Speech and Religion. Dingell endeared herself to the students by discussing education and her desire to see students leaving college debt-free by 2021 (by means of Hillary Clinton’s plan for education.

»This is going to be the most important election of your lifetime.«
Debbie Dingell, Representative of the 12th district in Michigan

According to Congresswoman Dingell, the generations of students voting this year are at ‘ground 0’ (the center of change) and especially in the state of Michigan, one of the most competitive states, she urged students to mobilize and ensure the turnover of the U.S. House of Representatives to Democrats.  In order for the House of Representatives to be a democratic majority for Michigan, six of the ten seats that are currently Republican would need to be won by Democrats in the upcoming election. For the entire House of Representatives to become a Democratic majority, thirty seats must turn blue nationwide come November.  As a battleground state, the elections are very competitive in the state of Michigan. The presence of young voters in the upcoming election will undoubtedly have an effect, as they make up twenty-five percent of the country and ‘100% of our future’ according to Dingell.

»Young voters make up twenty-five percent of the country and 100% of our future.«
Debbie Dingell, Representative of the 12th district in Michigan

Just as the dozens of political organizations set up on the diag this past Friday, so will Tim Kaine and student volunteers do again this upcoming week in an effort to encourage students not only to ‘go blue’ but to ‘vote blue.’ We will know by November 9 if they achieved their goal to encourage young voters to go to the polls!


Emily Young is a student in International Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. She grew up in the tri-border region of Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium and  has a serious interest in US and EU Relations. Emily loves photography and will contribute a photo series.