During a recent speech to University of Michigan students in Ann Arbor live streamed throughout the nation, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders sought to avoid a repeat of 2016, when many of his younger supporters simply stayed home after he’d lost the Democratic nomination for president.
“This young generation does not vote in large enough numbers,” Sanders told the crowd. “So today I say to the young people here in Michigan and around the country, it is not enough to complain. We got to fight back. And the first way is to vote!”
“A lot of people are taking Donald Trump more seriously than they took him in 2016. It’s pretty evident that the stakes are just so much higher now.” — Alexandra Stamper, resident
It’s a message that hits very close to home with 24-year-old Taylor resident Alexandra Stamper.
“I’m from Burlington where Bernie was mayor,” she says. “But I think right now a lot of people are taking Donald Trump more seriously than they took him in 2016. It’s pretty evident that the stakes are just so much higher now.”
Stamper says that’s why she’s excited to cast her ballot.
“I think it’s a referendum on Donald Trump. I think it’s maybe the most important elections of my lifetime so far. My parents have said it’s the most important election of their lifetime,” Stamper said.
Listen: Michigan voters sound off on what’s pushing them to vote.
The Biden Blahs
There’s a similar feeling among some in Midtown Detroit.
On Woodward Ave., Malinda Hill-Sangster says she’s so committed to voting she serves as an election precinct supervisor on the east side of the city.
“Biden is the best of both evils. He’s not as great as everybody thinks he is. He’s got some dirty ways too. But look at Donald Trump. He has coronavirus.” — Malinda Hill-Sangster, resident
She says she’s also committed to defeating Donald Trump, much more than being enthused about Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
“Biden is the best of both evils. He’s not as great as everybody thinks he is. He’s got some dirty ways too,” Hill-Sangster said. “But look at Donald Trump. He has coronavirus, he just pulled his whole mask off at the White House after getting out of the hospital and did not care about anybody or anything. He really don’t care.”
On a nearby bench Detroiter John Laskey says the pandemic won’t stop him from doing his civic duty and voting. But he says he’s not thrilled about his choices for the White House.
They’re “so-so. But I’m going to vote. Hopefully Biden gets in there. If not, we gave it a try,” he said.
The Economy, the Economy, the Economy
About 15 miles away, outside the Dodge Park Coney Island in Sterling Heights, Valerie Cusmano says she is also preparing to do her civic duty.
She, too, works the polls, in Richmond Township.
“I’m still gonna vote. If you don’t vote you better not complain about anything.” — Valerie Cusmano, resident
And Cusmano makes it clear she supports how Trump handled the economy before the pandemic struck. But she’s not so excited about the president himself.
“Do I particularly love this person? No,” Cusmano said. “But I’m still gonna vote. If you don’t vote you better not complain about anything.”
It’s a different story inside the restaurant, where construction worker Paul Slifco says he can’t wait to get to the ballot box.
“I’m pretty pumped up,” Slifco said. “But I’m always pumped up. I voted since ’84. Never missed one yet.”
And Slifco says he’s all-in on Trump.
“The way it’s been run the last four years the economy’s really skyrocketed. We’ve been in the construction business. I’ve been there with all the different work rules with Obama and all them. And everything was slow back then. Now it’s going gangbusters. We’re building buildings from Alabama all the way up here. We haven’t had a day off yet.”
A Divided City
It’s a familiar tale to the man sitting a few booths away from Slifco.
Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor says it only takes a glance around the city to see how energized the President’s supporters are.
“With Trump it’s not just yard signs, it’s flags,” Taylor said. “People are hanging flags from their houses. I saw in my neighborhood a guy painted Trump’s name on his pickup truck. There’s something you don’t see every day. There is a real energy level among Trump supporters for Trump. People love him, that’s for sure.”
Yet Taylor is not among those supporters.
The lifelong Republican made international news when he said he regrets voting for Trump in 2016 and will now vote against him.
“There is a real energy level among Trump supporters.” — Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor
Taylor says the President is dividing Sterling Heights, claiming a substantial portion of the city’s electorate wants to vote Trump out of office.
But Taylor says there is one emotion he senses all voters here share.
“The mood right now is that everybody wants this election to be over. And we’re not looking forward to any sort of prolonged period of time after the election to try to figure it out in the courts.”
With a historically large number of Michiganders voting absentee this year, there’s a very real chance the initial results could be contested by either presidential contender.
Voters might be waiting a very long time before the election results are known, no matter how enthusiastically those ballots were cast.