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Most February MI primary votes were cast before election day

Jodi Westrick
Michigan Public

A state elections board on Monday completed the formality of certifying Michigan’s presidential primary results and, along the way, learned that most voters are not waiting for election day to cast their ballots.

The bipartisan Michigan Board of State Canvassers made short work of unanimously giving its imprimatur to the work of 83 county boards that checked the numbers and determined President Joe Biden won the Democratic primary and former President Donald Trump won the Republican primary.

Biden won his primary with 81.1% of the vote, with 625,221 ballots cast for him. There was a campaign by activists opposed to U.S. support for Israel in its war in Gaza, urging Democrats to protest the Biden administration by voting for “uncommitted” delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee in August. That effort picked up 13.2% of the primary votes.

Trump received 761,163 Republican votes or 68.1%, while runner-up Nikki Haley got 761,163 votes or 68.2%.

The board is made up of two Democrats and two Republicans. No formal action can be accomplished without at least one vote from each party.

Elections Director Jonathan Brater told the canvassers that early in-person voting at clerks’ offices and absentee voting were most primary voters’ preferred options this year.

“We had a total turnout of 1.9 million,” he said. “We had about 1.1 million vote absentee. And … about 80,000 early in-person, so the majority of ballots were cast before election day.”

The percentage of voters who cast absentee or early in-person ballots was striking – 60%, to 40% showing up at the polls on primary day. It is not the first time the number of absentee votes outnumbered election-day ballots. But it shows a continued trend that started during the pandemic of more people in Michigan not waiting until election day to vote. That trend was facilitated this year by an amendment to the state constitution, approved by voters in 2022, that requires more options for voting early and using absentee ballots.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.