GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A record number of voters cast ballots in this week’s election in Kent and Ottawa counties, a turnout driven in part by a hotly contested governor’s race and three statewide proposals, clerks said.
That’s also the case across the state, which reported a record of about 4.5 million votes cast.
In Kent County, more than 301,000 showed up to vote, about 20,000 more than the last midterm election in 2018, Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons told News 8.
“I think it’s safe to say that certainly these proposals energized voters on both sides of the aisle to come out and cast their ballots,” the county clerk said Thursday. “There’s just a lot of interest in making their voices heard, whether they’re for a proposal or against a proposal.”
Ken Kollman, a political science professor at the University of Michigan, said that the record turnout surprised him, given that it was a midterm election.
“I think these are a bit surprising,” he said. “It was a governor’s race and the propositions, especially Prop 3, probably turned out people that maybe otherwise wouldn’t have.”
According to exit poll data from NBC News, the top issues voters said impacted their vote was abortion and inflation.
Strictly looking at percentages, the 59% turnout Tuesday was not a record for a midterm in Kent County. That happened in 2018, when 62% turned out. But there are a lot more people now registered to vote in Kent County — more than 510,000.
“We just have a lot more interest in what’s going on in our political sphere and our self-governance,” Posthumus Lyons said.
In Byron Township, first-time voters 19-year-old sisters Hannah and Grace Hoorn said they were brought out by Proposal 3 (the abortion question) and the governor’s race. Both voted for Proposal 3 and Whitmer.
Grace, a student at Grand Valley State University, said she was encouraged by on-campus get-out-the-vote drives.
“I’ve been to a lot of informational sessions on voting, on the importance of voting, especially for the younger generation, so that kind of encouraged me to come out to vote,” she said.
In Ottawa County, voters went for Whitmer’s Republican challenger Tudor Dixon and against all three proposals.
Ottawa County reported a record 146,000 voters, though a slightly lower percentage turnout (64%) than the (68%) record set four years ago.
“We did see the largest single number of voters in a midterm,” County Clerk Justin Roebuck said. “It’s always encouraging to see voters engaging in the process. As an election administrator, that’s something that we’re very passionate about.”
Clerks said the big numbers led to occasional long lines but few glitches.
“Very smooth day. We had no equipment issues,” Roebuck said. “Voters were active, engaged, lined up from time to time. We did see some lines but overall people were getting through those lines quickly and a lot of people participating.”
Kollman said Michiganders and the country as a whole may start seeing higher voter turnout every two years.
“We might be in a new normal,” he said.
—News 8’s Phil Pinarski contributed to this report.