Editorial

Our state reps. not elected by primary vote majority

ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” article. It is an editorial by the editor.

“The game is rigged… But nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care.” — The late, great comedian George Carlin

I wrote this editorial four years ago, and honestly believe it could be passed along to the masses at least every six years, when history repeats itself.

At the risk of being a bit of a broken record, I hereby ask anyone in a position to do so to introduce a bill to streamline the undemocratic primary election process in Michigan.

I suggest that every two years there should be a “pre-primary runoff” on the first Tuesday in May whenever there are more than two candidates for one party’s nomination for the office. Then I propose the top two vote-getters in that runoff be eligible to face one another in the August primary.

Such a process would be a lot more fair and democratic than the rigged system we endure now. Not long ago, I told readers that we have not elected a state representative with a majority of votes in his or her first appearance on the ballot. This rigged game for the past 22 years has included an overcrowded slate of candidates running for the Republican nomination, resulting in the “winner” being elected with less than 50% and sometimes as low as 25% of those who bothered to vote.

For those who do not remember, I re-submit the data for the 80th and 72nd Districts, which are local for Allegan County citizens, after the implementation of term limits:

• 1996 — State Rep., 88th District, Patricia Birkholz, 4,664 votes, 39.7%; Dar VanderArk, 4,240 votes, 36.2%. Three candidates total.

• 2002 —Fulton Sheen, 3,976 votes, 33.12%; Roger VanVolkinburg, 2,339 votes, 19.98%. Five candidates total.

• 2008 —Bob Genetski, 3,160 votes, 25.28%; Todd Boorsma, 3,090 votes, 24,72%.Eight candidates total.

• 2010 — 72nd District State Rep., Kenneth Yonker 7,278 votes, 48.03%; Eric Larsen, 6,843 votes, 45.16%. Three candidates total.

• 2014 — 80th District State Rep., Cindy Gamrat 3,924 votes, 40.83%; Mary Whiteford, 2,798 votes, 29.11%. Four candidates total.

• 2016 — 72nd District State Rep., Steven Johnson, 2,257 votes, 29.80%; Tony Noto, 1,748 votes, 23.08%. Five candidates total.

• Added just for good measure — 2002 State Senate, 24th District, Patricia Birkholz, 12,024 votes, 48.46%; Terry Geiger, 9,393 votes, 37.86%. Three candidates total.

The numbers don’t lie. They show every time there is a race for state representative, and sometimes for state senator, in which there is no incumbent, the winner does not receive at least 50% of the vote, but wins by plurality. Doesn’t seem democratic, does it?

Even worse, because of the GOP’s nasty habit of not challenging incumbents, the primary winner who didn’t win by a majority has punched his or her ticket for a six-year term, which carries almost a half million dollar prize in salary and benefits for the six years, for eight in the senate.

So Birkholz served six years in the State House after polling 39.7% in her first run; Sheen got 33.12% in his first try; Genetski got just over 25% to get his six years; Yonker won six years with 48%, Gamrat’s doomed career was cut short, but she won with only 41%, and Steve Johnson has scored six years in Lansing after getting just 29.8%.

We are faced with this rigged situation again this year with four candidates in the 43rd House District GOP primary race and three in the 79th District. It is very likely that the winner Aug. 2 will have less than 50 percent of the total vote and will win by plurality. That winner likely will punch his or her ticket to a six-year term, just like Birkholz, Sheen, Genetski, Yonker and Johnson.

Even worse, there are 10 Republican candidates for governor, so it’s possible to win that primary with less than 12% and still win the right to do battle with Gretchen Whitmer in November.

I ask any legislator willing to employ democratic election fairness and insist on “pre-primary runoffs” in May when there are at least three candidates on the ballot, with the top two winning the right to face each other in the August primary. Please introduce the bill and fight for it

I also ask all township and municipal clerks for their support and perhaps even a little lobbying on behalf of democracy and against this unfair rigged electoral system. But I admit I’m not holding my breath.

3 Comments

  • Surprise, surprise, I don’t agree with you at all but you are onto something in regard to the pre-primary approach. But I notice you never mentioned the plurality of Democrat candidates. Guess you don’t give them a chance, as it should be on the West side of the state. But then again, they are for anything the citizens don’t want and love to tax, tax, and tax some more.
    At both the federal and state level they never ever cut spending.

  • Editor,

    You are wanting to be an effective journalist……….Come up with something new…..same ole` stuff……

    Cheers!!

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