Rebuilding voters' trust key for midterm elections, says panel

Political science professor Roger Moiles talks with moderator Karen Zivi.
Political science professor Roger Moiles answers a question from moderator Karen Zivi, right, during the Hauenstein Center's 2022 Election Panel on October 27.
Image Credit: Valerie Henderickson

Since the rise of misinformation following the 2020 election, Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck has been active, connecting with his constituents. During a panel discussion with other election experts on October 27, Roebuck said he’s directing his staff to concentrate on two points. 

“Countering misinformation begins with relationships and trust,” Roebuck said. “We need to engage on the election administration level and make sure we are connecting those dots and building those relationships within our community.”

Improving trust and developing connections were recurring themes among panelists during the Hauenstein Center’s 2022 Election Panel at the Devos Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus.

The Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies and the Grand Valley Political Science Department presented the evening’s discussion with local and statewide experts from the academic, nonprofit and private sectors. 

Karen Zivi, professor of political science, moderated the panel, which also included Nancy Wang, executive director of Voters Not Politicians, and Roger Moiles, affiliate professor of political science. 

Nancy Wang, executive director of Voters Not Politicians, fields a question from an audience member.
Nancy Wang, executive director of Voters Not Politicians, responds to a question from an audience member during the Hauenstein Center's 2022 Election Panel.
Valerie Hendrickson
Audience member asking a question to panelists.
An audience member asks a question during the 2022 Election Panel on October 27.
Valerie Hendrickson

The discussion ranged from redistricting, the rise of misinformation, election integrity and which issues are resonating with voters, but gaining and keeping the trust of the public were seen as paramount to this year’s elections. 

That task may be a difficult one, Moiles said, since a large number of Americans still believe the 2020 election was stolen, contrary to the prevalent evidence. 

“We have to recognize that these people are our neighbors and have to get that trust back which is something that we’ve lost in a lot of ways,” Moiles said.

In Wang’s case, building trust with voters has been a difficult objective. Voters Not Politicians emerged in 2016 as a grassroots effort to address redistricting reform in Michigan. For this year’s midterms, Wang said her group is promoting the passing of Proposal 2, which concerns voting rights.  

“Our volunteers are very engaged,” Wang said. “My concerns are that we’re promoting Proposal 2, but a lot of people aren’t aware of it, how critical it is and what’s on the line.”

No matter the political affiliation, Roebuck said, Americans share similar principles when it comes to elections and the democratic process.

“We want the same things. We want to trust our elections, election integrity and access for everyone,” Roebuck said. “Let’s start from there and continue pushing out that fact-based information."