How many people do I vote for? – Part 3: State elected positions

Talk to youth about the voting process and discuss the roles of state elected positions.

This is the third article in a series about the different people you vote for on Election Day. It includes some basic information, questions for discussion and things to consider. Take time to talk to the young people in your life (and adults too) about who you are voting for, why and their opinions on the issue. Why is our government the way it is? What would happen if we changed things?

The State of Michigan system

Each state government is slightly different based on their state constitution. Michigan is one of 10 states with a full-time legislature. Do you think creating laws, developing budgets  for the state, and meeting with constituents is a full-time job? Currently, Michigan legislators make a little over $70,000 per year, either in the House or the Senate, the fourth highest of any state. What expenses might a legislator have if they live in the Upper Peninsula and work in Lansing? Should legislators be paid a lot because it is a difficult job, or not very much because they should do it for the public service, not the compensation? Would higher pay encourage more of the “best and brightest” to go into politics?


The Governor of Michigan is elected to four-year terms with a maximum of two terms. Do you think voter turnout is different for gubernatorial elections versus presidential elections? Until 1963, Michigan governors served two-year terms. How do you think governors might act differently in a two-year term compared to a four-year term?

Secretary of State

The Secretary of State of Michigan is elected to four-year terms with a maximum of two terms. The Secretary of State oversees elections, vehicle registration and licensing. Nationally, the President selects all the members of their cabinet, but in the state of Michigan, both the Secretary of State and the Attorney General are elected by the people. Twelve states have their Secretary of State appointed by the governor or the legislature.

What do you think are the pros and cons of these different systems? Would having a Secretary of State with different beliefs lead to more conflict? Might it lead to a wider range of ideas?

Attorney General

The Attorney General of Michigan is elected to four-year terms with a maximum of two terms. The Attorney General of Michigan is the chief law enforcement officer of the state of Michigan. Until 1950, the Attorney General was appointed by the governor. The Attorney General serves as the lawyer for the state of Michigan; they also prosecute criminal actions.

What happens when a state of Michigan employee or elected official is accused of criminal wrongdoing? Can one person serve both interests? If an elected official is responsible for prosecuting crimes, can they be impartial to the political donors who helped get them elected?

State Senators

Michigan State Senators are elected to four-year terms with a maximum of two terms. Michigan has 38 State Senators, elected by districts based on population. Each State Senator represents between 212,000 and 263,000 people. Nationally, Senators are elected two per state, strictly on geography, regardless of size or populations.

What are the pros and cons of electing via geography versus electing based on population? Is one system more or less fair than the other?

State Representatives

Michigan State Representative are elected to two-year terms with a maximum of three terms. Michigan has 110 State Representatives, elected by districts based on population. Each State Representative represents between 77,000 and 91,000 people. Some states have only one legislative house.

What might be the advantages and disadvantages of having two houses of the legislature? Would it make it easier or more difficult to pass laws? Should it be easy or difficult to pass laws?

Hopefully these questions get you thinking about our government and generate some interesting ideas as you head to the polls. They might also encourage the young people in your life to make a difference in their community, country and world.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

Other articles in series

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