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What You Need to Know About Michigan’s Primary Elections

Surprise, there’s an election coming up! Whether it’s from all of the yard signs that you see on every corner, the increased amount of political ads seen on your social media feeds, or even the college interns that have knocked at your door asking you to vote for their favorite candidate, you have surely noticed an uptick in politics in your neighborhood.

It is pretty fair to say that we all want some sense of normality and control during this eventful 2020, which is why casting your vote is more important now than ever. In Michigan, our August primaries are meant to determine the best candidate from the two major parties to face off in the November general election. Voters are only able to vote in either the Democrat or Republican column, but not both. Since this is an ‘open’ primary, you can vote in either column, regardless of your party affiliation.

Local Elections

Why do they matter?

The most likely place where you will experience direct results from your vote in August will be in your local elections. These elections decide who will be on the general ballot and have direct access to local amenities that you interact with regularly.

What is being voted on?

This question is answered best by your ballot, which you can preview at any time on the Secretary of State’s website. But generally, local elections cover your township or city, county, and any millages. Township and city elections include supervisors, mayors, clerks, trustees, and sometimes sheriffs. Local officials decide on smaller projects, have smaller budgets, and are typically part-time governmental bodies. When thinking about actions local governments make, think small scale like a dog park next to your house or whether your water rates increase for the year. County elections are fairly similar to the township elections, except these officials have larger budgets and can be responsible for bringing more jobs to your area.

Millages are not that common on August primaries, due to lower voter turnout, but don’t be surprised to see an ask for renewal to your local library or a mill for your highschool’s football field.


To learn about the candidates running in your county and precinct, Google them! Look at Facebook or Twitter for their campaign pages, which will include facts about the candidates, the content that they like to repost, and lead you to any local events that they will be holding. As far as millages, think about how often you would utilize the service in comparison to the value that will be taxed on your property.

State Elections

Why do they matter?

The primary election in the Michigan House of Representatives, the only state office up for election this year, is more important than the general election due to gerrymandered districts and term limits. The House of Representatives is half of the lawmaking body in Michigan and determines where your state income tax is allocated, such as education, healthcare, and the environment.

What is being voted on?

Based on the redrawing of districts from the 2010 legislature, called gerrymandering, your house district is most likely to be considered a Republican or Democratic stronghold. What this ensures is the party that was drawn into this district will remain in control of the district with little contention from the opposing party. For this reason, the winner of the primary in the district’s preferred party has a stronger advantage in the general election.

With that brief lesson on political jargon out of the way, it is important to understand the Michigan House. Each of the 110 representatives represents around 80-90,000 Michiganders. An elected Representative can serve for two years, three times, with every member up for election every two years. Due to the distribution of representatives, the metro Detroit region holds around 60% of the representation in the House.

The legislature is the lawmaking body of the state, responsible for designing legislation to create, modify, and dismantle regulations within the state. Over the past two years, the Legislature has been responsible for increasing the amount of money being spent on schools, created opportunities for Michiganders that want to return to post-secondary education, and has produced some economic incentives that will bring jobs to our state.


Though these candidates represent more of your neighbors than some of the smaller elections, they will be just as likely to live within a few miles of your house. Check their Facebook pages for local events or virtual townhalls, as these are truly the best places to understand the differences in candidates. In many cases, there may only be one candidate running for your preferred party,  which can give you more of an opportunity to engage before the general election to learn more about their policy stances. Who knows, maybe you will find a candidate that you would volunteer for to spread their message!

Federal Elections

Why do they matter?

In this round of federal elections, Michiganders will be voting on their favorite primary candidate to represent them in the House of Representatives. Congress determines the allocation of the federal budget and will be vital in returning our nation to the prosperity that was experienced before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Who is being voted on?

Similar to the Michigan House, the Congressional seats are just as gerrymandered, meaning the candidate that prevails the primary will probably win the general election. As far as the House of Representatives, 435 Representatives are each representing around 720,000 Americans. Though one member is only a splash in the bucket for voting power, Representatives are still each capable of introducing legislation, joining caucuses, and revitalizing Michigan’s economy.


Federal elections are hot topics, especially in the world of American politics. It’s guaranteed that you will be seeing TV ads, Facebook videos, and junk mail telling you why you should or shouldn’t vote for this candidate. Don’t let these ads fool you, no laws are protecting these solicitations from stretching the truth to dismantle their opponents. Do you own research on issue topics or take a political alignment test on the internet, like, that will give you more info on federal topics.


The best advice I can give you about our elections is to do your own, unbiased research on your ballot and to realize that your vote matters. Visit the Secretary of State’s website to verify that you are registered to vote, view your ballot, and see where your polling station is. If you have an absentee ballot sitting on your counter like I do, make sure to have it turned into your clerk by election day, August 4th, to guarantee your voice is heard. Elections can often be decided by less than one hundred votes, so make sure you vote!

Written by Adam Majestic, the government relations coordinator of the Detroit Regional Chamber.

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