GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says more than 2.5 million votes were cast in the Tuesday primary, the largest turnout Michigan has ever seen for an August primary.
The previous record was 2.2 million in 2018.
Nearly two thirds of the votes were cast absentee. With more than 1.6 million absentee ballots returned, Michigan set a new record for any election.
Because counting absentee ballots is a somewhat laborious process, the large number slowed the release of results, though most were out by Wednesday morning. The counties that lagged the most — Ingham, Genesee, Oakland and Wayne — have large populations and the last one wrapped up counting Wednesday night, Benson said.
The number of absentee ballots is expected to climb significantly for the November presidential election — Benson said it could be as many as 3 million.
Benson and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, both Democrats, as well as local clerks, have called on the Republican-led Legislature to pass reforms that would allow clerks to prepare — but not count — absentee ballots early. Right now, they cannot start until 7 a.m. on election day. Benson said 24 or even 12 more hours could be a big help.
Without any legislative changes, Benson said, it could be Friday after the Nov. 3 election or even into the weekend before the closest races are determined.
She also called on Congress to provide more funding to the U.S. Postal Service to ensure that absentee ballots are getting to voters and then back to clerks in a timely manner.
A total of 10,000 absentee ballots had been rejected as of Thursday, though Benson’s office did not yet have the breakdown for exactly why. Some may have been rejected for missing or mismatched signatures, or they may have been postmarked by election day but arrived late.
Benson is also pushing a bill that would allow late arrivals to be counted if they were postmarked by election day, and another that would require local clerks to check in with voters about signature problems. Clerks are currently permitted but not mandated to reach out about those types of issues.
More election workers will be needed in November, when Benson expects a total of 5 million votes. You can sign up to work the election at Michigan.gov/DemocracyMVP.
Benson said her office will be working with companies, labor unions, sports teams and colleges to find poll workers. On Tuesday, the Detroit Pistons loaned staff to help count votes, and DTE Energy and the Service Employees International Union aided in recruiting.
She said she has already requested additional $15 million in federal dollars to support the November election, funding more workers, more machines and public education about the vote.