The final results of the Socialist Party of Michigan’s participation in the 2008 elections demonstrated a considerable step forward in its electoral outreach capability and a confluence of, still modest, but nonetheless record breaking gains on Election Day. While running three candidates for state and federal office this year, in addition to the Socialist Party’s 2008 presidential campaign, the SPMI was able to present and provide a Socialist alternative to Michigan workers across all sections of the state’s two peninsulas.
As in past elections, the SPMI faced the task in 2008 of running Socialist candidates while still being denied its own state ballot line due to Michigan’s highly antidemocratic ballot access laws. Despite this obstacle, however, the SPMI has run Michigan candidates on the ballot in each state election since 2002, through either independent qualifying petitions or the ballot line of the Green Party of Michigan, with which the SPMI maintains an amiable relationship. This year all three of the SPMI’s nominated candidates qualified through the dual nomination of the Green Party and therefore dually campaigned and identified as Socialist Party/Green Party candidates and were generally identified accordingly by the media, election guides, and state candidate links. Although the SPMI was able to qualify the 2004 SP presidential ticket for the Michigan ballot through the defunct NLP ballot line, it was forced to settle for official Michigan write-in status for the SP’s presidential ticket in 2008…
SPMI candidate Matt Erard ran for a second time in a row for State Representative in the 53rd District, which covers nearly all of Ann Arbor. In addition to a relatively significant amount of press coverage, Erard participated in a live, televised two-candidate debate with his incumbent Democratic opponent and was also featured as a live in-studio guest on Frank Beckmann’s WJR morning radio show.
On Election Day, Erard received 2,200 votes, more than doubling his vote total from the prior election and receiving approximately five percent of the total vote cast for Ann Arbor’s State House seat. As a result, the sole Socialist State House candidate running in Michigan this year received the highest vote total of any minor party candidate challenging the two corporate parties for a state legislative seat and the highest vote percentage of any minor party candidate contesting the two corporate parties for any state level office in Michigan.
SPMI candidate Dwain Reynolds ensured that every Michigan voter would have a Socialist alternative on their ballot by running for the State Board of Education. Earlier in the campaign season, Reynolds spent nearly four months touring across the state of Michigan with Grand Rapids-based rock band La Dispute and opening each of their shows with campaign speeches to hundreds of young Michigan working and student voters in each audience, and to roaring eruptions of cheers each time he conveyed how Socialists would address the state’s failing educational system.
Following the mass support base Reynolds formed throughout the state from this exhaustive campaign tour, he received a record-breaking 94,663 votes; exceeding the past highest vote total that any Socialist or Green candidate for the State Board of Education had ever received by nearly 10,000 votes. Such an immense increase was no mere spurious product of increased voter turn-out in the 2008 election. With only 1.26% more votes cast for the office in 2008 than when the prior record was set in 2004, such an increase can only reflect the outpouring of support Dwain received for the Socialist public education platform he introduced to students and workers across the state.
SPMI candidate Jean Treacy brought a Socialist alternative directly to northern Michigan’s no less struggling working class by running for U.S. Congress in the 1st district, which covers both the entirety of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the northernmost counties of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. While more sparsely populated than most other other districts, Michigan’s 1st Congressional district is the second largest district in land among any located east of the Mississippi River, while containing over 30 Michigan counties and approximately 44% of the state’s land.
Despite the overwhelmingly vast territory Jean faced in working to spread her campaign’s message to northern Michigan workers, she succeeded in spreading it widely enough to win 2,669 votes; coming in third place after her two corporate party opponents and beating her other two opponents of the Libertarian and U.S. Taxpayers’ Parties. Like the other two SPMI candidates this year, Jean also broke a new record by exceeding the vote totals of the SPMI’s last U.S. Congressional candidate in 2004 by nearly 500 votes.
The SPMI successfully qualified the 2008 Socialist Party ticket of Brian Moore for President and Stewart Alexander for Vice President for official Michigan write-in status by completing the filing requirements by Michigan’s September 5th deadline. Among the required documents filed was a slate of Michigan presidential electors comprised of an SPMI member who registered to vote in each of Michigan’s 15 Congressional districts, plus an additional two state-at-large electors. The Moore-Alexander ticket and rightist presidential candidate Alan Keyes were the only two campaigns to qualify for official presidential write-in status in Michigan since the 2000 election.
While the vast majority of presidential write-in votes go illegally uncounted in most states, regardless of a presidential candidate’s state-certified write-in status, Michigan, this year, was unfortunately no exception to that tendency. The Michigan Dept. of State reported only 41 tallied write-in votes for SP presidential candidate Brian Moore statewide. Following the release of this tally, accounting for fewer votes than even 2/3rds of the SPMI’s own present number of dues-paying members in good standing, the SPMI subsequently received numerous complaints from both members and non-members who could clearly discern that their votes had not been counted because their counties failed to tally or report even a single vote for the campaign. Among such counties reporting zero votes for the SP presidential candidate was the county of Marquette where the SPMI’s own Marquette County local is centered!
Although numerous reports have been received of write-in votes cast simply for “Brian Moore” that still went un-tallied, the Michigan Department of State Bureau of Elections officials silently decided this year, in direct contradiction to their own published instructions, that vice presidential candidates, whether certified or not, are irrelevant to presidential write-in votes. Consequently the MI BOE officials didn’t bother to include SP vice presidential candidate Stewart Alexander on the list of qualified write-in candidates that they sent to all Michigan counties and precincts. Moreover, the instructions they sent to all such precincts stated that write-in votes containing a name not on their list are invalid and must be disregarded rather than tallied. Consequently, while the vast majority of write-in votes cast for the ticket included both presidential candidate Moore and VP candidate Alexander, as the SPMI had encouraged after having confirmed the certification of both candidates as a ticket, evidence suggests that nearly all votes that included VP candidate Alexander were assumed to be invalid under the faulty instructions election inspectors received from the Michigan Bureau of Elections.
The widespread disenfranchisement resulting from state and county election officials’ disregard for state law in providing such tallies was only compounded by the same Bureau of Elections officials having refused, without any statutory basis, to include any mention of certified presidential write-in candidates on the state general candidate listing or anywhere else accessible to the public until weeks after the election. Such officials, who have quite explicitly expressed their contempt for the state law allowing for write-in candidacies, even went so far this year as to send instructions to all precinct workers that, if any voters request to see the list of write-in candidates, which each precinct is required to posses, they are to refuse to allow the voter to view the list or even to disclose its contents. Consequently Michigan voters’ only source of information on the ticket’s Michigan write-in qualification was the SP or SPMI directly. The SPMI is continuing to collect information on the disenfranchisement of Michigan voters who cast write-in votes for the ticket for purposes of filing additional complaints and potential legal action. If you cast a write-in vote for the SP presidential ticket in Michigan this year and believe your vote went un-tallied, we would appreciate any information on where you voted and how you cast your write-in vote, through an email to spmi @ spmichigan.org
Although SPMI members, following this election, are both optimistic about a continuing pattern of electoral progress, and outraged by the disenfranchisement of many of our voters in the presidential race, our most central consideration in evaluating the success of our electoral campaigns each election year is not how many votes we obtain, but how many people we were able to reach with our political message, educate about socialism, or rouse toward greater systemic contemplation of events and conditions around us and the need for working people to fight back and organize for revolutionary change. Through our participation in the 2008 elections, we’re therefore most gratified to have had our most far-reaching points of success in that foremost aim of our electoral campaigns.