Muskegon City election braces for high youth turnout following record-breaking 2020 election

St. Clair has a unique style for connecting to youth voters


Jarett Wall, Contributing Writer

In the 2020 presidential election, a record number of voters turned out. Over a hundred and fifty-nine million people voted. This election saw a whole new generation of voters come out and make their voices heard. Fifty-five percent of all voters aged eighteen to twenty-nine voted in the 2020 election. This turnout is the highest percent of any modern record in the modern age of politics (Election Week 2020: Young People Increase Turnout, Lead Biden To Victory). Officials in the City of Muskegon are hoping that this new wave of youth voting will spill over to local elections.

While not having the glamour of national elections, local elections have a more significant effect on people’s day-to-day lives. These elections serve as a great way for young local Muskegon residents to dip their feet into local politics. Young adults that want to make real changes in their daily lives need to get involved in their local elections.

Currently, the City of Muskegon has upcoming local primary elections in August and then a regular ballot election in November. In total, there are three local city seats on the ballot come Nov. 3. In Muskegon, five candidates are seeking two four-year term city commission seats. The candidates are Rebecca St. Clair, Rachel Gorman, Michael Hughes, John Page, and incumbent Dan Rinsema-Sybenga. On Aug. 3, a primary vote will cut down the number of candidates to four who will face off in the Nov. 2 general election.

Meanwhile, incumbent city commissioner Ken Johnson has chosen to forgo his seat to challenge Mayor Steve Gawron. The election for mayor will occur on Nov. 2 as well. While all these seats are non-allied, each candidate has a stark difference in their opinion of what the future of the City of Muskegon should entail.

One candidate, in particular, has a decidedly refreshing take on the role of a city commissioner. Rebecca St. Clair is a forty-two-year-old social worker who, in her own words, describes her platform as one of listening. In an interview, she said, “as a commissioner, it should be what the constituents want, and I don’t know if that’s what happens. People often go into politics with a personal ax to grind, and I don’t think that is how it is supposed to be; we are a representative democracy. I am a social worker, so I spend all day listening to people, and I think we could use more social workers in politics”. In a political landscape characterized by who can scream the loudest, it is refreshing to listen to a candidate focused on listening.

Rebecca’s vision of the City of Muskegon is one that represents all members of the community. As she states, “There have been some pretty obvious efforts to mute people,” referring to recent efforts by the City to turn off the ability to make comments or suggestions of any of its pages or websites. Censorship affects youth involvement in local politics because it cuts off the main way young people could make suggestions to better their community. The City claims this is to regulate the City’s image, but the real effect is silencing the very same people these pages are supposed to represent.

In the 2020 National election, young adults stepped up and voted. They wanted their voices heard. In the past, one of the biggest reasons that young voters have not voted is that they did not believe anyone would listen to them. Who better to listen to them than a social worker whose vocation involves listening to people every day. Rebecca has spent a career doing the important and difficult task of listening to what people need and developing plans to help people conquer those needs. In a time where most politicians are professional politicians, business professionals, and city planners, a social worker might be what our city needs.