Michigan mail-in ballot count shows high turnout

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — More than 150,000 Michigan voters cast mail ballots a month before the Nov. 8 election that will decide the governor, secretary of state, state attorney general and whether access to abortion will be a constitutional right.

A total of 1.6 million people have applied for mail-in ballots so far, surpassing the 1.16 million who chose the option in the 2018 midterm elections. Figures indicate that 2022 could be the most votes ever cast in the state for a gubernatorial election, Secretary of State spokesman Jake Rollow said Tuesday.

A record 3.3 million people in Michigan voted absentee in the 2020 presidential election at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rollow said he expects the state “to end up with about 2.25 million mail-in ballots submitted if things were to play out along similar trends,” through the 2020 election. The Secretary of State will continue to publish the number of absentees weekly in the run-up to the election.

A 2018 voter-approved constitutional amendment that allowed mail-in voting without an excuse, on top of the pandemic, has led voters across the state to increasingly vote by mail rather than at the polls on Election Day.

In addition to high impact races for governorattorney general and secretary of state, a ballot initiative in November to enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution should lead to high voter turnout.

The low percentage of mail-in ballots returned on Monday lends heightened importance to a gubernatorial debate on Thursday between Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Republican challenger Tudor Dixon.

The debate will bring increased exposure to Dixon, who has struggled to build voter favor on television due to a lack of fundraisers and attack ads from pro-Whitmer groups. A $3.5 million ad buy from the Republican Governors Association will begin airing pro-Dixon ads in Michigan on Wednesday.

While early voting in the state began Sept. 29, clerks can’t begin processing returned ballots until the Sunday before Election Day under a agreement reached last month by Whitmer and the Republican-controlled legislature.

Clerks are allowed to remove absentee ballots from their outer envelopes, but still cannot remove secret pockets or count votes until 7 a.m. on Election Day.

Delays in results in the state of the battlefield, which has one of the most decentralized electoral systems in the country, has left room for the dissemination of false information in the past.

Michigan does not require voters to identify their party affiliation when voting in a general election, which makes it unclear whether more Democrats or Republicans are voting by mail.

Kristina Karamo, the Michigan GOP nominee for Secretary of State, and GOP Attorney General nominee Matthew DePerno have both claimed during their campaigns that mail-in voting leads to increased fraud.

At a recent rally for former President Donald Trump in Warren that featured Michigan GOP state and congressional candidates, MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell encouraged voters to wait to vote until ‘on election day because voting by mail makes it ‘easier to cheat’.

Michigan-based pollster Bernie Porn said polls from his firm, EPIC-MRA, showed more Democrats plan to vote by mail in the upcoming general election than Republicans.

An initiative on this year’s ballot initiated by Promote The Vote, a voting rights group that helped pass the 2018 No Reason Mail-in Voting Amendment, would further increase the accessibility of mail-in voting. Among other things, the initiative would allow people to register on a permanent list to receive mail-in ballots each election, while requiring nine days of in-person early voting.

Joey Cappelletti is a member of The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.

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