With this year’s election day fast approaching, Cornell students and alumni will be voting in elections across the nation from New York to Hawaiʻi. This is the second article in a series highlighting the students and alumni who are voting in battleground elections this year. Read Part 1 here.
Cornell students hail from nearly every state in the country, including Washington, D.C., meaning that this year, many students will be voting in elections — for both houses of Congress as well as for governor — categorized as tossups. These races are the most competitive. According to the Cook Political Report, either party stands a good chance of winning.
While each state sets its own calendar for gubernatorial elections, the federal government requires 33 senators and the entire House of Representatives to run for reelection every even year.
This article is a state-by-state breakdown of elections in the Great Lakes region, which has become a swing region in recent years. All four states have gubernatorial elections, and three states also have Senate elections.
Long seen as a “blue wall” state with consistent Democrat victories, Pennsylvania shocked the country when it voted for Trump over Clinton in 2016. Though it swung back and voted for Biden in 2020, Pennsylvania continues to be a political battleground at every level. Compounding its already-explosive status as a battleground are tossup races in elections across the state for the Senate, House and governor’s mansion.
Josh Shapiro (D-Pa.) and Doug Mastriano (R-Pa.) face off in the gubernatorial election, while John Fetterman (D-Pa.) and Mehmet Oz (R-Pa.) compete for a seat in the Senate. The Cook Political Report rates the gubernatorial race as a “likely Democratic” seat and the senatorial race as a “tossup.”
Max Hafner ’23 is from Emmaus, Pennsylvania, which is part of Pennsylvania’s seventh congressional district. According to Hafner, he plans to vote for his Democratic congressional candidate, Susan Wild, due to his familiarity with her policies. Similarly, Hafner plans to vote for Shapiro and Fetterman, citing opposition to Republican-planned policies.
“I’m not voting this cycle,” said Sam Schneider ’21, who is originally from Maine but now is a registered voter in Centre County, Pennsylvania.
Although registered as an independent, Schneider has leaned more Republican in past election cycles.
“It hurts me as a voter to see how bad the ballot was, and to see that that’s what’s considered an acceptable ballot in this state bothers me,” Schneider said. “I just said, ‘You know what, I don’t want to vote for that and implicitly say that it’s okay for that kind of ballot to be given to voters.’”
Similar to Pennsylvania, Michigan is a Democratic-leaning state that flipped for Trump in 2016 and reverted back in 2020, becoming one of the newest battlegrounds in the American electoral landscape. Though Michigan does not have a Senate election this cycle, governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) is up for re-election against Tudor Dixon (R-Mich.), and several of its 14 House elections are rated by the Cook Political Report as toss-ups.
Savannah Kokaly ’25 is from Essexville, Michigan, which votes in Michigan’s eighth congressional district, represented by Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) and rated as the median district in the U.S., this district falls between the 217 of the country’s 435 districts that are ranked as more Democratic and the 217 ranked as more Republican. The Cook Political Report rates the race as a Democratic lean.
Kokaly will be voting absentee and plans to support Kildee and Whitmer.
“I am voting in this way as I support the many views and opinions of the candidates running,” Kokaly said. “With so much going on in our country today, I know my vote in this direction is important.”
This year, along with the House elections, Wisconsin has both a Senate and gubernatorial seat up for grabs. In the Senate, Mandela Barnes (D-Wis.) faces off against Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), while in the gubernatorial race, Tony Evers (D-Wis.) runs against Tim Michels (R-Wis.). The Cook Political Report rates both of these races as a tossup.
Caroline Hinrichs ’22, who recently moved to Madison, Wisconsin, said she plans to vote for Barnes and Evers.
“I not only believe that he is the right person for Wisconsin, but I also think that his election could be a part of a major turning tide in the Senate,” Hinrichs said.
Vivian Lewandowski ’25, also from Madison, also plans to vote for Barnes and Evers, citing the candidates’ goals of reproductive rights and funding for education as her top priorities.
“Barnes is a very charismatic and compassionate politician with a good track record who cares about women’s rights and clean energy, while his opponent does not,” Lewandowski said. “Evers is running against a QAnon bigot who believes abortion is murder and refuses to acknowledge both climate change and the 2020 election outcome.”
Long seen as the bellwether of presidential elections, Ohio voted for the eventual victor in every election from 1964 until 2020. In recent years, the electorate has trended more Republican; still, some Democrats have recently been elected to statewide positions, like Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
This cycle, Ohio is voting for a senator, where Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) is running against J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), and for governor, where Nan Whaley (D-Ohio) challenges incumbent governor Mike DeWine (R-Ohio).
From Cincinnati, Sammie Engel ’25 said she plans to vote for Democrats in all major races, citing gun control and abortion rights as her two most important issues.
“I respect her [Nan Whaley] from her work as the mayor of Dayton — she is an outspoken advocate of gun control, since Dayton experienced a mass shooting a few years ago,” Engel said. “She also cares deeply about women’s rights and abortion rights.”
Similarly, Drew Ware grad, who is from the Cleveland area, said he plans to also vote for Whaley.
“I’ve been unhappy with DeWine,” Ware said. “His stance on abortion is incredibly restrictive, going so far to restrict abortion in cases of rape or incest. There’s a well-known story of a 10-year old girl who had to travel to Indiana for abortion access. DeWine also made “tax cuts” for the state, but a large amount of the breaks go to wealthy Ohioans.”
Engel remarked on Ryan’s authenticity, a candidate that both she and Ware support.
“I like how genuine he [Ryan] is — he truly cares about Ohioans and the manufacturing core of the state which politicians often forget about,” Engel said. “I think JD Vance is fake — he opposed Donald Trump, but as soon as he announced his candidacy, he was vying for Trump’s stamp of approval. I simply can’t respect someone whose morals change depending on when it is politically helpful.”
Recently, Vance has come under scrutiny. According to The New York Times, a Russian propaganda interview featuring American fighters captured in Ukraine appeared on Rumble — a conservative platform backed by Narya Capital, a venture capital company that Vanc founded.
“Sadly, I’m not surprised by this connection between Vance and Russia, but I don’t think it will have a big effect on the election,” Engel said. “It reminds me that he is a man without principle — at first he hated Trump and now he kisses the ground Trump walked on.”
Engel plans to vote for Samantha Meadows (D-Ohio), despite the state’s gerrymandering.
“Cincinnati is split into two districts, gerrymandered to limit the democratic voice in the city center by pairing it with reliably red rural counties,” Engel said.
Ware plans to vote for Matthew Diemer (D-Ohio) in the election, despite his redrawn district also leaning much further Republican.
“My congressional district was supposedly redesigned to lean more Republican than before, so I’m concerned about keeping a Democrat from my district in the House,” Ware said.
Engel says that at its core, Ohio remains a swing state, but its extensive gerrymandering has diluted Democrats’ power.
“The congressional maps that Ohio generated were so gerrymandered that they were continually struck down by courts this summer. Cincinnati and some suburbs are reliably blue,” Engel said. “Yet Cincinnati and its surrounding areas are always represented by a Republican congressman simply due to the congressional districts.”
Engel said that Ohio’s onerous voting requirements also affect its election results.
“The Ohio Board of Elections also makes it very difficult to vote, especially in ‘blue’ areas,” Engel said. “Until there is a change in leadership at the state level, I think Ohio will remain Republican.”