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Harnessing the power of the ballot in Michigan

‘Folks are turned off to voting,’ because of a strict focus on politicians, not the people.

Being a Black man working on voting rights in a country that historically and currently works to suppress his vote is what actually drives Micheal Davis Jr. The Lansing native says he believes in issues over politics, people over politicians.

“The relationships and bonds I have made throughout this time, seeing our board members who have been in and around Michigan politics taking these lumps and bumps for so long and still actively participating is what gives me hope,” Davis says, executive director of Promote the Vote. And one thing that he has learned in mobilizing voters is, “Folks are turned off to voting,” because of a strict focus on politicians.

Davis spent the majority of his advocacy career in the labor movement. After graduating from the University of Michigan, Davis spent two years with the AmeriCorps Youth Empowerment Project in Ann Arbor. He followed that working for the United Auto Workers and AFL-CIO in Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, and Wisconsin.

“That was the biggest catalyst for me,” Davis says, “working with the people that I met in that work.”

Davis is currently working on a ballot initiative to enshrine voting as a fundamental right into the Michigan Constitution.

“It does three core things,” Davis says. “It protects against election subversion on the back end, expands the right to vote, and protects against intimidation at the polls.”

Davis understands the stakes.

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“I know how important it is,” says Davis, “and how impactful it can be for some of these broad-ranging initiatives and policies that actually have a trickle-down effect for folks in the Black community and communities of color.”

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