GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — About 4.5 million people voted in Michigan in the Nov. 8 election, with the secretary of state calling it the state’s largest midterm ever.

About 1.8 million ballots were cast absentee, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said during a Wednesday afternoon news briefing.

When all is said and done, the total turnout will break the midterm record set in 2018, when about 4.3 million people voted, Benson said.

The unexpectedly large turnout and the huge number of absentee ballots made for a slower count than voters are used to, with many races not called until the middle of the night Wednesday or even Wednesday morning.

But state elections officials had warned it could take even longer. Benson, Michigan’s top election officer, called the election and count a “success.”

“Already, the vast majority of unofficial results are available,” she said. “I’m confident that as we go through the process, when the unofficial results are finalized, they will reflect that this election was the highest-turnout midterm election in Michigan’s history. Thousands of Republican, Democrat and independent election clerks and workers securely checked and counted ballots all through the day and night yesterday to provide Michigan voters with their unofficial election results far more quickly than we’d anticipated — largely, because the process was smooth, transparent and absent of significant disruptions.”

As of 4:50 a.m. Wednesday, Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons said Kent County had 100% of precincts fully reporting their unofficial results. She noted that surpassed her expectation of when the count would be completed.

According to Posthumus Lyons, in the city of Grand Rapids, out of the 32,700 absentee ballots sent out, 30,068 were returned; 4,500 of those on Tuesday. In Kent County, the total turnout was 59%, with 60% of those voters going to the polls on Election Day and 40% voting absentee, according to Posthumus Lyons.

“Fifty-nine percent turnout is slightly lower than what it was in the gubernatorial election of 2018, which was around 62%. It is significantly higher than it was in the 2014 gubernatorial race, which I believe was at 43%,” she said.

She tweeted that in all, 301,027 people cast their ballots in Kent County.

In Ottawa County, all of the 117 precincts had reported their unofficial results as of around 3 a.m. State records show 147,249 total votes were cast there.

“THANKS to the @OttawaElections team, and to all of our amazing election workers and local clerks who make our democratic process possible,” Ottawa county Clerk Justin Roebuck said in a tweet Wednesday morning.

Michigan saw its “high water mark” of absentee voting in November 2020, Benson said, citing the pandemic as the reason. In that election, about 5.5 million people voted total and about 3.5 million of those (or two thirds) were absentee. Benson said that this time around, there was a “more normal” ratio, with a little less than half of all ballots absentee — though she noted in-person versus absentee turnout may “ebb and flow.”

The next step is the canvassing process, which happens in the coming days. County canvassing boards, made of people from both major parties, will review records to confirm the accuracy of the results. Canvassing boards are open to the public.

Once that’s done, the vote will be certified at the county level by Nov. 22 and by the Board of State Canvassers by Nov. 28. Any recounts would happen after canvassing and certification.

“Following a record-breaking day like yesterday, I want every voter to know that their vote was counted fairly and that the results of the election are indeed an accurate reflection of the will of the voters,” Benson said.