Muslim vote helps secure Michigan for Biden/Harris ticket

Grassroots group says ground game resulted in 80,000 absentee and early votes
Nonprofit Emgage details grassroots effort
Nonprofit Emgage details grassroots effort(ABC12)
Published: Nov. 7, 2020 at 5:07 PM EST
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - Roughly 146,000 votes give now President-elect Joe Biden the edge over President Donald Trump in the Great Lakes State. That margin was even tighter in 2016 when Trump carried Michigan with 10,700 more votes than Hillary Clinton.

By and large, the tight margins of victory in certain states for either candidate highlight how critical every vote is, and perhaps more importantly, the hard work of expanding the electorate. Muslim civic engagement nonprofit Emgage Michigan did just that for the Biden/Harris ticket in 2020, according to the organization’s executive director.

“I want everyone to know that Muslims played a huge role for Biden to win Michigan and the nation itself," said Nada Al-Hanooti, Executive Director of Emgage Michigan.

Al-Hanooti says their efforts resulted in 80,000 absentee and early votes from Muslims. The exact number of Muslim votes cast in Michigan isn’t something that is officially known yet.

She says the president’s ban on visitors from predominantly Muslim countries played a major factor for Muslim families, among other serious social issues. Biden pledged to end the ban on day one if elected.

“Let me be clear. We did not vote for Biden. We voted for Breonna Taylor. We voted for our BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) brothers and sisters that are getting deported. We voted for our Muslim sisters and brothers here that are being persecuted just for practicing their faith," Al-Hanooti said.

Emgage originally backed Bernie Sanders for the presidency, but later switched gears to support Biden and Harris. Al-Hanooti says volunteers as young as 14-years-old and organizers as young as 16-years-old helped make 1.8 million phone calls and send 3.6 million text messages. They created their own data file and registered voters.

The organization concentrated its efforts in Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties where a majority of Muslim Michiganders reside. Al-Hanooti stressed the inclusion of Black Muslims in the effort as well.

Exit polls are helping to paint a partial picture of what swayed voters in one direction or another. CNN exit polls in Michigan show 91-percent of respondents who voted for Biden said racial inequality was the most important issue to their vote. That was second to 94-percent of Biden voters who said coronavirus was the biggest issue for them.

Those who voted for Biden are 43-percent White, 59-percent Latino, and 89-percent Black. There were no percentages for Asian and Other respondents.

The same CNN poll shows Trump receiving 70-percent support from White born again or evangelical Christians. However, one statistic that isn’t showing up in exit polling is the emergence of the Muslim and non-Muslim Arab American electorate.

“Arab Americans have been participating in a much higher rate civically, at least in the past two elections, but far more in this election," said Devin Bathish, Executive Director of the Arab American Heritage Council in Genesee County.

Although there are ongoing efforts, primarily with the Census, to get a better idea of the number of Arab Americans in the state, current estimates say there are about 400,000 living in Michigan, including 20,000 in Genesee County.

Bathish sees a shift happening from generation to generation.

“A big reason [for record turnout] was because of young Arab Americans and other Arab American voters really pushing to get people mobilized,” Bathish said.

Bathish and AAHC have been working to increase representation and resources through the Census and voter registration efforts in the Flint area. Biden carried Genesee County with 54-percent of the vote to Trump’s 44-percent.

“Muslim Arab Americans and Arab Americans are a voting block that you have to recognize. Like I said, I’m Palestinian. Very much we’ve been ignored and put on the margin for decades," Bathish said.

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