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Image via Shutterstock

Republicans have held total control over the Michigan legislature for ten years. But Democrats are only a few wins away from changing that.

LANSING, Mich.—The Republican Party has held unitary control of Michigan’s Legislature for a decade, since a tide swept former Gov. Rick Snyder and the state’s conservatives into power in 2010. But Democrats might be bringing that dominance of the Michigan House to an end. 

A number of vulnerable Republican members of the House combined with the intensity of the 2020 presidential race have given Michigan Democrats an opportunity to end the Republicans’ decade of control over the House. Even if the House flips, though, the Senate will remain in Republican hands until at least 2022, still acting as a roadblock to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer‘s agenda. 

That isn’t to say retaking the House wouldn’t be meaningful, as state Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) explained. 

“Taking back the House means that we can work on things that actually matter to Michiganders, like protecting the environment, funding our public schools, and increasing access to healthcare,” she told The ‘Gander.

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Tipping the scales of the negotiation process slightly in Democrats’ favor makes accomplishing that work easier. It only requires a few gains for Michigan’s Democrats. 

If the Democrats can pick up four seats statewide, they’ll likely flip the House. Though they are aiming for five pick-ups to offset state Rep. Karen Whitsett (D-Detroit) who has been a vocal Trump supporter following her brush with the coronavirus and who has sided with Republican efforts to block Gov. Whitmer’s pandemic protections. Whitsett has earned a unanimous censure from Detroit Democrats for her recent actions, and state Democrats might not be able to count on her support in establishing a majority party in the House.

And Republicans do have an advantage in retaining control of the House, thanks to  gerrymandering the process of drawing voting districts to gain partisan political advantage. That process was, following the 2010 census, so transparently lopsided that it prompted voters to amend the state’s constitution to prevent such a partisan redraw of the map from ever happening again. 

READ MORE: Court: Michiganders, Not Politicians, Will Draw Voting Districts

Still, there are a number of tight races where Democrats hope they can flip a state House district in 2020 across the state, but the most hotly contested region might be Oakland County, where the Michigan Democrats picked up a seat with Rep. Mary Monoogian (D-Birmingham) in 2018.

“Folks who have traditionally voted Republican no longer identify with the current version of the Republican Party,” Manoogian told Michigan Advance

As Bridge explains, Democrats are hoping to pick up three seats in Oakland County alone. But Republicans are also looking for seats to flip, particularly in northern Michigan. 

If the Democrats do flip the House, the time between the election and the new legislators being sworn in is called a “lame duck” session, and there’s good reason to think it’ll be a particularly active one. 

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When Gov. Whitmer was elected in 2018, Republicans’ eight years of single-party control of every facet of Michigan’s government ended. It came one of the most frenetic and wild lame duck sessions in American history, as legislators attempted to force through their entire agenda and lay down new tripwires for the incoming slate of Democratic executives before losing control of the governorship. 

This broke with conventional practice of lame duck legislators not attempting to countermand the voice of the voter. Voters were roundly critical of the legislature’s actions, taking to the Capitol Building in protest. 

This once-unprecedented action sets expectations for what to expect when a part of the lawmaking process changes hands in Michigan going forward.

Early voting in Michigan is already underway. Check The ‘Gander’s election hub for the information you need to take to the polls and make your voice heard.