Advance Notice: Briefs

Despite pandemic, Michigan has record-breaking election turnout

By: - May 7, 2020 11:52 am

Susan J. Demas

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said voters broke a record set in 2015 for the percentage of ballots cast in May elections, despite voting during a pandemic.

Benson said that 25% of eligible voters, or roughly more than 180,000 Michiganders, participated in Tuesday’s elections. Additionally, 99% cast absentee ballots, with only 1,775 people voting in person. This comes after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order back in March that expanded absentee voting due to the pandemic.  

“The record-breaking high turnout in yesterday’s local elections underscores how deeply committed Michigan citizens are on weighing in on the critical issues facing their communities and our society, even during a pandemic,” Benson said.

All registered voters living in a jurisdiction with a local election received applications to request ballots be mailed to them directly ahead of the election, and all postage was covered, Benson said.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, May 18, 2019 | Andrew Roth

About 740,000 people received mail-in ballots this way, but all Michigan voters already have the right to vote from home and the ability to automatically receive absentee applications mailed to them. Those interested in joining the permanent absent voter application list can sign up here

Benson had also given communities the chance to withdraw or postpone items on their ballots to a later election due the pandemic, as well. About half the communities chose to postpone elections. Some school districts also told Benson’s office that their schools would not be funded if summer millages were not voted on in May.

One voting location per jurisdiction was also required to be open so people could, if necessary, register to vote or return a ballot in-person for Tuesday’s election. Benson said operations went “better than expected.”

Benson said election clerks were briefed on social distancing tactics for in-person voting and were also supplied with hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep them safe on the job.

She added that Tuesday’s elections were proof that the state has what it needs to carry out safe, secure elections, and data collected from the election will be used to “determine the best and safest way to proceed in the August and November elections.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Madeline Ciak
Madeline Ciak

Madeline Ciak is a former Michigan Advance reporter. She’s a University of Michigan-Flint graduate and previously worked as a digital media manager at NBC25/FOX66 in Flint and a weekend producer at ABC12.