This article is part of the TPM Café, the headquarters of TPM's news and opinion analysis. Originally posted on Conversations.
The midterm elections seem to have been over.
Pollsters are already weighing the likely outcome of the 2024 presidential campaign. Candidates and potential candidates for the Republican presidential nomination have announced they will travel to Iowa, the party's top candidate state.
But the 2022 election results in two major states tell us a lot about how election laws and election issues affect how people vote.
At first glance, it's not easy to understand why the election results in left-leaning Michigan and former left-leaning Republican Ohio were so different. Similar demographics and similar voting patterns in the past, such as Republicans' statewide races in multiple election cycles, suggest they tend to have similar election results.
As researchers of Ohio state politics and electoral politics, we looked at recent elections in both states and found differences after 2016, with Michigan voting more blue and Ohio voting in red. Our analysis suggests that differences in voter registration laws and ballot initiatives could explain why these two states took different voting paths. This preliminary study has not yet been peer reviewed.
Between 2000 and 2012, states achieved similar voting results more than half the time. But they deviate a little. Meanwhile, voters in Michigan have chosen the Democratic presidential nominee in each of the four races. Meanwhile, voters in Ohio voted twice for Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic President Barack Obama. At the gubernatorial level, Michigan voted and was reelected in three elections during this term (2002, 2006, and 2010), while Ohio voted for two Republicans and one Democrat.
In the 2016 presidential election, voters in Michigan and Ohio chose Republican candidate Donald Trump. There were no U.S. Senate elections in Michigan that year, but voters in Ohio reinstated Republican Senator Rob Portman for another term. Voters in both states send more Republicans than Democrats to the U.S. House of Representatives and both houses of the state legislature.
As the two countries slowly drifted apart for two decades, they met in the 2016 election for Trump's presidency.
Michigan turned blue and Ohio state remained red
But since 2016, voters in the two states have taken fundamentally different political paths. In 2018, 2020, and 2022, Michigan voters chose Democratic candidates for governor, Senate, and president, and majorities in both houses of the state legislature. They voted on ballot initiatives to legalize cannabis, county reform and legalize same-day voter registration, including direct card voting, automated voter registration, daytime voter registration even and voting without voting. They also voted to change the state constitution to protect abortion and contraceptive rights, all policies that Democratic candidates typically support.
In the same three election cycles in Ohio, residents voted for Republican candidates and Republican-favored policies. Voters rejected drug-related criminal justice reform, agreed to a referendum that could make safeguards more punitive, and guaranteed that only U.S. citizens could vote in Ohio elections. In fact, Republicans have dominated electoral politics in both federal and state elections, with one exception: In 2018, voters elected Democrat Sherrod Brown to the United States Senate.
In addition, the people of Ohio elect a Republican governor, a presidential candidate, and all executive offices in the state, as well as a governor, three open seats on the state Supreme Court, and a supermajority in the state legislature. U.S. Senate seats vacated by Republicans remain under Republican control.
Not a demographic group
Analysts believe Ohio is no longer a swing state because the majority of its residents are white and from a working-class background. However, when we look at the population, we find that demographic differences are not the reason Michigan and Ohio voters are so different politically. Data from the American Community Survey, a demographic study conducted by the US Census Bureau, shows that these two Midwestern states are very similar demographically.
Michigan and Ohio have similar white populations at 78% and 80%, respectively. black population, 14% and 12%; bachelor's degrees, both 18%; people over 65, both 17%; The median household income is $59,000 in 2020; And unionized workers 13% and 12%.
But state polls of early voters and Election Day 2022 in Michigan and Ohio show disparities among voters. Ohio voters are more likely to be male, 52-50 percent, and white, 83-80 percent, than Michigan voters.
Ohio voters identify less with unionized households (21% to 27%) and more likely with Republicans, 41% to 32%.
Early voter registration can play a role
In 2018, Michigan adopted Same-Day Registration, which allows voters to register on Election Day, and Automated Voter Registration, which makes voter registration automatic with a driver's license application. and an extension for those who qualify. In Ohio, voters must register about a month before Election Day.
Registration data from Michigan suggests that this simpler method of registration may equate to the highest turnout in the state. The increase in total votes cast in Michigan from 4.8 million in 2016 to 5.5 million in 2020 shows that the 2018 registration change has had an impact. While other factors may play a role in increasing voter turnout in Michigan, changes to state law suggest that same-day automatic registration may have played a role.
Additionally, Michigan has more registered voters than Ohio, even though Ohio has 1.7 million more residents than Michigan. Ohio has 1.3 million more eligible voters than Michigan, according to the Federal Register. The data also shows that Ohio historically had more registered voters than Michigan until Michigan approved automatic same-day voter registration.
Michigan's official secretary of state election results show the gubernatorial campaign garnering 4.5 million votes, the most contested position in 2022. In Ohio, the secretary of state reported 4.2 million official votes for governor.
Problems can affect voter turnout
There are signs that more people are voting when social issues that matter to people come to a vote. In 2022, Michigan filed a petition asking for the right to abortion and birth control to be included in the state constitution. This year, state attendance increased by 159,060 from 2018, according to the Michigan Secretary of State's office. Still, Ohio faces voting problems in 2022 related to the release of felons and a ban on voting for noncitizens. in regional elections. Voter turnout in Ohio fell by 295,466 between 2018 and 2022.
Before candidates attempt to mobilize and persuade voters, campaigns attempt to influence the pool of potential voters by conforming to their state's rules. Changes to Michigan's registration rules, along with social voting issues and other factors, may have created a different voting environment than Ohio, where none of these changes were made. This raises the possibility that Ohio State's withdrawal as a non-competitive state is premature.
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