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Grassroots GOTV effort changes political landscape of Lansing

Entire slate of candidates driven into office by people clear on change they want to see

The Win Justice coalition brought together unions and community organizations to knock on the doors of 1.3 million voters this election season in Michigan. As a result, the state saw the highest voter turnout in a midterm election since 1962. Not only will Gretchen Whitmer become the next governor, but several state and federal house seats have gone from red to blue as well.

Now member organizations are seeking a seat at the table as the Whitmer administration starts putting together a team. “Personnel is policy.” declared Ryan Bates, executive director of the Michigan People’s Campaign (MPC). He’s calling on Whitmer to consider life experience when looking at the qualifications of applicants to 200 boards and commission she will have to fill in the coming months. “People who have the life experience of being humiliated and given the run around when they go to the department of human services should be at the table as we decide public benefits policy.”

Bishop Herman Starks of the Christ Truth International Church has had the experience of being tried as an adult when he was still a teen. That is why he has been an activist fighting to end mass incarceration. “People who get out of prison, and then are denied jobs and housing because of their felony record. Then we act surprised when they end up back in the system,” Starks said. Under the Granholm administration, the state worked to reintegrate returning residents into society, with far fewer of them ending up back behind bars. Today, however, Michigan sentences people longer for minor offenses than any state in the midwest. “And at the federal level, we're calling on representatives-elect Slotkin, Stevens, and Rashida Tlaib to work with us to pass the Cut 50 Act, which would reduce the federal prison population in half by 2020,” Starks said.

Whitmer earned the MPC endorsement after signing on to the “Immigrant Justice Platform” which would make driver’s licenses, English classes and citizenship classes available to immigrants. Senegalese community leader, Seydi Saar would like to make sure everyone in Michigan feels welcome. “So many immigrants who have their Green Cards want to become citizens. They want to become full parts of our society, but it is difficult and expensive,” said Saar. “Now, thanks to the Trump Administration it can cost nearly $800 to become a citizen, but only $500 to renew your Green Card. You need to study for the test, you need to learn English, and you need to hire a lawyer.”

MPC also backed three women running for the state house and employed a strategy similar to one used to help elect Darrin Camilleri in the 23rd district in 2016. This year, members shared their stories of caring for children and seniors to re-elect camilleri and elect Laura Pohutsky, Mari Mannogian and Padma Kuppa to state house seats in the 19th, 40th and 41st districts respectively.

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