SOS: More than 2.5M voted in Tuesday’s primary

    East Lansing voting precinct | Susan J. Demas

    More than 2.5 million people voted in Michigan in Tuesday’s statewide primary election, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

    That broke the record set in 2018 for an August primary, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Two years ago, 2.2 million voted. In 2020, more than 1.6 million voted absentee, breaking another record. Michigan voters passed a constitutional amendment in November 2018 permitting no-reason absentee voting.

    Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson at Louis Pasteur Elementary School on Primary Election Day Aug. 4, 2020 | Ken Coleman

    The SOS reports that polling places across the state “ran smoothly on Tuesday, with few if any lines, and distancing protocols that prevented crowding.”

    “The success of the primary proved once again that Michigan can hold safe, accessible, secure and on-schedule elections during the pandemic, and this will serve as our blueprint for the presidential election,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “To ensure similar success and safety in November, when turnout will double if not triple, I am calling on the state legislature to act now and support all clerks, election workers and voters.”

    The Secretary of State notes that two Michigan laws — one preventing the processing of absentee ballots before polls open and the other requiring ballots to arrive at clerk offices or drop boxes by 8 p.m. on Election Day — could “cause significant delays in November and disenfranchise thousands of voters.”

    Benson and clerks have asked the Legislature to take up legislation reforming the process, as the Advance previously reported.

    For Tuesday’s election, most of the boards counting absentee ballots did not finish until early Wednesday morning, and results were not in from all counties until Wednesday evening, more than 24 hours after polls closed.

    1.6M voted absentee this election, but not everyone received their ballot

    As of Wednesday, more than 10,000 absentee ballots had been rejected, a number that is expected to climb on Thursday and in following days. It had not yet been determined how many of those rejections were due to late arrival, but this was the cause of more than half the rejections in the March primary.

    Turnout is expected to increase “dramatically” in November, per the SOS, and 2.4 million Michiganders are on a permanent absent-voter list or have requested to have their November ballot sent to them by mail.

    Benson warned that without changes to election law, tens of thousands of Michigan voters could be disenfranchised and the nation could wait “days for Michigan results in order to determine the outcome of the presidential election.” Michigan was the closest state in 2016, with now-President Trump winning by only 10,704 votes.

    “Democracy is a team sport, and I am hopeful state lawmakers will soon step up and do their part,” said Benson.

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    Susan J. Demas is a 19-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.