GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan voters went to the polls for the state primary Tuesday, choosing which candidates will move forward to the Nov. 8 general election, including in the race for the governor’s office.
DIXON PROJECTED TO WIN GOP PRIMARY
Tudor Dixon was projected to win the Republican primary in the race for Michigan governor, according to the Associated Press and NBC News.
The gubernatorial primary was the big-ticket race for Republicans Tuesday. It was a chaotic campaign, with five of the 10 candidates disqualified over invalid petition signatures. The remaining five were former business owner and broadcaster Dixon, real estate broker Ryan Kelley, pastor Ralph Rebandt, businessman Kevin Rinke and chiropractor Garrett Soldano.
Dixon will face incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, in the Nov. 8 general election.
Michigan’s legislative lines — those defining its U.S. House of Representative districts and Michigan House and Senate districts — were redrawn this year. As a result, some voters found themselves in a different district with unfamiliar candidates.
In the 3rd Congressional District, which covers much of metro Grand Rapids and Ottawa and Muskegon counties, Republican incumbent Rep. Peter Meijer conceded to challenger in John Gibbs.
“This was a hard-fought primary campaign, and I want to thank everyone in West Michigan for their support,” Meijer said in a statement. “Representing my hometown in Congress has been a tremendous honor for which I will always be grateful. I also want to congratulate my opponent, John Gibbs, on his victory tonight.”
It was a close race throughout Tuesday evening into early Wednesday morning.
“It’s a big jarring, you know, you go back and forth, you’re sitting there hitting reload on phones to see what latest results are,” Gibbs told News 8 shortly before midnight. “But there are so many people praying for this, so I do feel a sense of calm and peace as well.”
But, he said, “I have a feeling we’ll pull it out.”
Meijer voted to impeach former President Donald Trump in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. Gibbs worked in Trump’s administration and was endorsed by him.
“There’s certainly plenty of folks who wanted to nationalize the outcome of this race in one direction or another,” Meijer said. “My focus as the representative for West Michigan in Congress has been on West Michigan and has been trying to provide the strong, stable and effective representation that I think all West Michiganders should demand of their representatives in Congress.”
Gibbs will face Democrat Hillary Scholten in November.
NBC News projected incumbent U.S. Reps. John Moolenaar and Tim Walberg to win the Republican primaries in the 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts, respectively.
Every Michigan House seat in the state is also up for election, and a number are open without any incumbent on the ballot.
In the 80th House District, Democrat Phil Skaggs is projected to win over Lily Cheng-Schulting. Skaggs will face Republican Jeffrey Johnson in the Nov. 8 general election.
In the 82nd House District, Kristian Grant leads Robert Womack by 63 votes in the Democratic primary. Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons says there will not be an automatic recount. Republican candidate Ryan Malinoski is projected to win over William Alexander.
Womack said his campaign manager plans to request a recount. “I have gone through way more than this. I’m still happy that I had an opportunity to serve my country as a voice for the voiceless. I feel good,” he told News 8.
In the 86th House District on the Republican side of the ballot, Nancy DeBoer is projected to win over Seth Getz. DeBoer will face Democrat Larry Jackson in November.
In the 87th House District, the Democratic candidate Will Snyder is projected to win. He will face Republican Michael Haueisen in November.
MILLAGES AND BONDS
There were a number of ballot proposals around West Michigan.
A millage in Calhoun County to update first responders’ communication technology has passed. The county 911 authority said radios are currently unreliable in some parts of the county.
In Oceana County, a millage to build a new jail failed. The county said its current facility is too small to provide adequate services and has some structural problems.
Kent County had two millage renewals on the ballot: one to fund services for veterans and the other for seniors. Both millages passed.
A number of schools sought bonds or millages. A bond proposal by Montague Area Public Schools passed, which wants to build a new gym and agricultural barn. Meanwhile, a bond proposal by Wayland Union Schools, which was looking to improve classrooms and technology, add a new mat room, expand Fine Arts space and build a new pool, failed.
ELECTION OFFICIALS: BE PATIENT WITH ABSENTEE COUNT
The Michigan Secretary of State’s Office expected up to two-thirds of voters to cast their ballots absentee, lining up with what it has seen in previous elections. It also reflects what is seen in other states that have no-reason absentee voting.
“Michigan voters like to vote from home. When you look at the numbers, what you see is — we don’t have numbers for how many people voted at polling place, but we have 1.1 million absentee ballots returned in a primary election in a non-presidential year,” SOS spokesman Jake Rollow said. “(It) shows since our voting laws were changed in 2018, voters have really embraced the ability to vote absentee.”
Because absentee voting is becoming more popular, it may take longer for election results to be announced than you’re used to. Even though absentee votes are cast early, they can’t be counted before election day and tallying them can take a while.
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said the system is prepared to handle the number of absentee ballots.
“I want to remind everyone that absentee ballot counting boards are continuing their work this evening,” Benson said at a news conference around 9 p.m. Tuesday. “Larger jurisdictions are still counting ballots prior to today and all jurisdictions and all jurisdictions with counting boards will receive ballots later this evening because voters had up until 8 p.m. … local time today to return them. Once those ballots are all returned, then they are certified at the clerk’s office before they are transported to the counting board for processing and counting. This is an important multistep process and one that we cannot and will not shortcut. It calls for the patience of everyone watching the unofficial results throughout the evening to understand that the winner of each election contest will be decided only by a full counting of every valid vote.”
She noted some races may be called Tuesday night, but some that were closer may take longer, until sometime Wednesday, when all the absentee ballots are counted.
“Be patient. It takes time to count your votes,” Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons reminded voters, speaking to News 8. “And accuracy and security is the name of the game. We’re not going to be expedient at the expense of security and accuracy.”
Posthumus Lyons said between 2017 and 2021, results were delivered to the county clerk from local precincts electronically via a secure wireless modem. But as of 2021, she said, that certification of that modem expired and she would not use equipment that was not certified. She said this year, local precincts and the absentee counting board were submitting their results through a secure virtual private network, or VPN, which takes a little longer.
She expected to be done counting everything, including absentee ballots, by around 7 a.m. Wednesday.
“Taking time to count votes isn’t a delay in the process, it is the process,” she said.
The next step, she explained, is canvassing to check the accuracy of the results and then certify them. The canvass, which starts Thursday at 9 a.m., is open to the public.
“A key part of having trust and confidence in our process is the fact that it’s a transparent process and we take transparency very seriously in Kent County,” Posthumus Lyons said. “The canvass is really the backstop check and balance, and we want people to be able to come to that.”
“We’re unique in that we have a lot of checks and balances in Michigan, and so we do have secure elections. But I don’t want people just to take my word for it. I want them to see it for themselves. That’s why our Board of Canvassers is open to the public so they can come and watch the process. Learn about it,” Posthumus Lyons said. “We love when people ask questions because we want them to be educated about how elections work here so that they can be confident about who our elections work here.”
Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck was expecting turnout of between 30% and 35%. Posthumus Lyons was seeing turnout of about 30%, which she considered average and was similar to turnout in the 2018 gubernatorial primary. Kent County was also seeing about an 84% absentee ballot return rate — again, average. The city of Grand Rapids took in more than 15,000 absentee ballots, slightly fewer than the city clerk expected but balanced by a slightly larger than expected in-person turnout at the polls.
Benson said more than 3,000 people registered and voted on election day. She did not yet have the number of in-person voters.
SOME PROBLEMS AT POLLS
Neither Roebuck nor Posthumus Lyons reported big problems.
“Overall, it was a smooth day,” Roebuck told News 8 after polls closed. “We had a pretty busy primary. I would say that our precincts had a steady turnout, it was pretty active. … Overall, a very successful day.”
He and Posthumus Lyons reminded voters that under state law, people may campaign 100 feet away from the entrance to a polling place. Posthumus Lyons said there seemed to be more of that campaigning near polling places, but it appeared to be in accordance with state law.
However, there were a few problems at the polls around the state — as there always are.
In Burr Oak Township, the township clerk was stripped of her election responsibilities after the Secretary of State’s Office said she improperly mailed some absentee ballots. The St. Joseph County clerk took control of voting in that township, which is near Sturgis.
In Lapeer County, election officials discovered Tuesday that the timing marks on the side of some ballots were misprinted, according to an SOS spokesperson. Timing marks allow the ballot to be fed into the tabulator machine. Because of the misprints, some ballots were not being read at all. When this happens, the ballots are put into an auxiliary bin. Then, election inspectors create a new ballot — with correct timing marks — replicating the exact same votes the voter filled in. The ballot is then fed through the machine and counted, the spokesperson said. The SOS said Lapeer County is following the correct protocol for duplicating ballots.
In neighboring Genesee County, a backpack was found left in a polling place in Linden, which caused some concern, according to the Secretary of State. Police were contacted and are investigating. Meanwhile, voting has been temporarily moved to city hall. There is someone stationed at the old polling place to direct voters to city hall.
In Inkster, near Detroit, polls did not have a printed list of eligible voters or an e-poll book on site at opening. An e-poll book is a laptop computer with a downloaded list of the eligible voters in that precinct. The e-poll book or printed list are used by election workers to confirm voter eligibility. Voting proceeded without the e-poll books. Poll workers checked voter’s eligibility with the clerk’s office before allowing anyone to vote. Once they learned of the problem, the Inkster Clerk’s Office distributed printed copies of the voter lists to each precinct. The SOS is not certain how many votes were cast through this process before the printed lists were delivered to polling places. But the Secretary of State’s office says everyone who showed up to vote was able to do so and a paper trail of who voted was recorded because they all filled out the application to vote.
— News 8’s Amy Fox, Anna Skog and Michael Oszust contributed to this report.