Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Michigan Is a National Model for How To Strengthen Democracy and Build an Inclusive Economy for All
Press Release

RELEASE: Michigan Is a National Model for How To Strengthen Democracy and Build an Inclusive Economy for All

Washington, D.C. — Michigan is creating a blueprint for the rest of the nation on how to strengthen democracy through voting and representation reforms and how to build an inclusive economy for all through public and private investments stemming from historic federal legislation.

The state’s emergence as a national model is highlighted in two new reports from the Center for American Progress that detail the impact of Michigan’s key voting and representation reforms as well as a number of infrastructure and manufacturing projects to boost the state’s economy and quality of life.

Despite an increasingly partisan national landscape, Michigan has been a trailblazer for popular democracy reforms, rebuilding people’s trust in government across party lines, with 60 percent of Michigan voters feeling optimistic about democracy at large following the 2022 election. CAP analyzes the critical role citizen-initiated constitutional amendments have had in strengthening the state’s democratic foundation through three key components:

  • Increasing voter registration and turnout and closing the racial gap in voter participation by implementing numerous voting and registration options
  • Ending partisan gerrymandering through an independent redistricting commission
  • Promoting citizen-initiated ballot measures—particularly constitutional amendments—to increase direct democracy and enact popular policies

On top of those reforms, public and private investments in Michigan made possible by historic economic legislation promise to revitalize transportation infrastructure, reconnect downtowns and neighborhoods, and boost American manufacturing. CAP delves into three projects across Michigan to show the transformative impact that the Biden administration’s investment agenda could have on communities across the nation, including those that have previously been left behind. The Michigan projects highlighted in this report include:

  • In Detroit, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funds are accelerating the replacement of I-375, an aging, milelong interstate highway that illustrates the harms perpetuated by prior federal infrastructure investment priorities. The damage from its initial construction in the 1950s—the demolition of the predominantly Black neighborhood of Black Bottom and the displacement of 130,000 people—cannot be fully corrected, but the project presents an opportunity to reconnect the communities the highway severed nearly 60 years ago.
  • In Kalamazoo, a grant from a new U.S. Department of Transportation initiative funds the “cornerstone project” in the city’s overhaul of its zoning code and transportation network. Guided by feedback from an extensive community outreach program, residents and city officials are collaborating to build the neighborhoods and a downtown district that serve their needs.
  • In Marshall, a legacy automaker—spurred by the Inflation Reduction Act—is investing billions of dollars to accelerate the industrywide transition to electric vehicles. Ford Motor Company’s BlueOval Battery Park will create thousands of potentially well-paying jobs with a free and fair choice to join a union.

“The Biden administration’s investment agenda offers Michiganders good jobs that will grow the middle class, infrastructure improvements to give cities and small towns the opportunity to thrive, and an American manufacturing sector that is competitive in the 21st century economy,” said Emily Gee, senior vice president for Inclusive Growth and a co-author of one of the reports. “Michigan is already reaping the benefits of this set of investments, and what’s happening there is an example of the growth and renewal underway in communities nationwide.”

“Michigan is a prime example that pro-democracy and voting reforms are supported by Americans across the political spectrum, even as they’re politicized and discredited by many federal and state officials,” said Greta Bedekovics, associate director of Democracy at CAP and co-author of the second report. “At a time of historic lows in public faith in elections and democracy, Michigan has shown that a different course can be charted through direct democracy and by officials who support the will of the people.”

Read the reports:

For more information on this topic or to speak to an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at [email protected] and Sarah Nadeau at [email protected].

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