The 2016 presidential election transformed Michigan from a state with traditional Democratic voting patterns into one of president-elect Donald Trump’s biggest swing-state victories. Michigan, which hasn’t cast its electoral votes for a Republican presidential nominee since 1988, turned to Trump, as lower voter turnout across key Democratic areas in Detroit and Flint helped propel him.
Trump’s victory was unexpected, as a Fox News poll gave Democrat Hillary Clinton a four-point edge the day before the election, while the New York Times gave Clinton an 85 percent chance to win on election night.
Overlooked in the hubbub of Trump’s odds-defying victory was that the U.S. House of Representatives maintained its “red” majority. Michigan not only voted for Trump, but kept its nine-to-five Republican majority in the U.S. House among its 14 seats. Among the 14, 12 incumbents, including all five Democrats, won their districts.
Michigan has not had a Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2011, when the state still had 15 districts. The Democrats had an opportunity to even the count at seven with two new Republican candidates running in Districts 1 and 10. Republicans foiled those plans, as newly-elected representatives Jack Bergman (1st District) and Paul Mitchell (10th District) each won by at least 15 percentage points.
At the state level, the GOP extended its majority in the Michigan House of Representatives by four members. Previously leading the count at 59-50 with one independent, Republicans now have a 63-47 advantage.
Winning GOP candidates received 1,685,126 total votes, mostly coming from the Mid-Michigan and Upper Peninsula districts. Democratic winners received 1,261,745 total votes, most of which funneled from traditionally blue districts around major population hubs in Detroit, Flint and Lansing.
For the Michigan State House, maintaining a Republican majority will help continue to push a Republican agenda under Governor Rick Snyder.
Mark Grebner, a political consultant and newly elected Democratic Ingham County commissioner, said the Democrats were facing an uphill battle in House races and didn’t stand much of a chance.
“Electing one Democrat doesn’t really help, because if the Democrats don’t have the 56 seats to maintain a majority, the Republicans simply treat them as doormats,” Grebner said. “They wipe their feet on them and step on them and close the door on them. The other two other branches of government, executive and judicial, are completely in Republican hands and the state Senate is as well. Nothing in this election changed that.”
Youth voting, primarily in areas like Ingham County with a large student population, was a factor in the election. Final Ingham County results showed a voter turnout of 71.75 in East Lansing’s five campus precincts, a massive turnaround from what East Lansing City Clerk Marie Wicks said regarding the 2012 election.
“For that election, I think East Lansing saw about 39 or 40 percent of people voted,” Wicks said. “Going up to nearly 72 percent in those campus precincts is astounding. It means more votes for not only the presidential race but for smaller races like the State House and East Lansing School Board and county seats in government. I was pleased with the students’ efforts, I really was.”
Seeing the vote at just under 72 percent pleased Nell Kuhnmuench, the East Lansing School Board president. Though she was happy that the board remained Democratic, she was hoping other areas could help flip the state house majority. Regardless, she was impressed by the amount of voters in her area who voted on election night.
“It was very important that the city was able to get the students … out to vote,” Kuhnmuench said. “Our city clerks do a phenomenal job of spreading the word around, and I thought our board members who were not up for re-election did well to make sure the youthful voters participated and were informed when selecting candidates for smaller county and city races.”