GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan votes on Tuesday, and the ballot includes primaries for several state House and U.S. congressional offices, as well as more local elections.
Below is a primer of everything you need to know about the Aug. 4, 2020, election.
Remember that because it is a primary, you’re choosing the candidates your party will put forth in the November general election. That means you can only vote on one side of the ticket; if you vote in both Republican and Democratic primaries, your ballot will be rejected.
If you’re voting absentee, your ballot must be returned to your local clerk’s office by election day. If it arrives later, it won’t be counted. If you haven’t already mailed your ballot, the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office recommends taking it yourself to your clerk’s drop box. The Grand Rapid City Clerk’s Office says it checks its drop box for the final time at 8 p.m. Tuesday, when polls close. Any ballots received after that won’t be counted.
If you got an absentee ballot but filled it out incorrectly, take it to your clerk’s office to get a new one. If you applied for an absentee ballot but didn’t get one, contact your clerk.
You can also, of course, vote in person. Go to Michigan.gov/vote to confirm your polling place — some have moved because they were previously in high-risk locations, like senior living facilities. The Secretary of State’s Office, which facilitates elections, says it has provided all municipalities with personal protective equipment like cleaning supplies, gloves and masks. Voters are encouraged to wear a mask, though they are not required to do so.
If you haven’t yet registered to vote, you can still do so in person at your clerk’s office. You may also register and vote on election day — though it’s a good idea to do it early to help prevent and avoid lines, which some cities saw during the March election.
There are more than 400 races around West Michigan. Below are several that News 8 will be keeping a close eye on. You can go to the state’s website to see the sample ballot for your area.
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
The 3rd Congressional District seat is finally truly up for grabs for the first time in a decade after five-term Rep. Justin Amash of Grand Rapids last year left the Republican Party to become an independent and then recently indicated he would not seek reelection.
There are five candidates on the ballot in the Republican primary: State Rep. Lynn Afendoulis of Grand Rapids Township, Grand Rapids businessman Joe Farrington, veteran and Grand Rapids businessman Peter Meijer, veteran and former Sand Lake Village President Tom Norton and Battle Creek attorney Emily Rafi. Four of those candidates participated in a debate at WOOD TV8 last month.
One of them will face Democrat Hillary Scholten in November.
In the 6th Congressional District, there are both Republican and Democratic primaries. In the Republican race, longtime U.S. Rep. Fred Upton is being challenged by realtor Elena Oelke. On the other side of the ticket, state Rep. Jon Hoadley of Kalamazoo and teacher Jen Richardson are vying to represent the Democrats in November.
While Upton has had a firm grasp on the seat for decades, he won reelection in 2018 by a margin of less than 5%, so the November election should be one to watch.
MICHIGAN HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
60th District: With Rep. Hoadley seeking to move to Congress, two Kalamazoo County commissioners are eying his spot in the Michigan House. Democratic voters will chose between Stephanie Moore and Julie Rogers to face Republican Gary Mitchell in November.
61st District: Current Republican Brandt Iden, R-Oshtemo, is being term-limited out. The Republican primary pits computer programmer Tom Graham and Bronwyn Haltom, a former Trump administration staffer, against one other. One of them will face Democrat Christine Morse in November.
70th District: State Rep. James Lower, R-Cedar Lake, will not seek reelection after a failed bid for the U.S. House. Five Republicans are aiming to replace him: Greg Alexander, Christopher Comden, Pat Outman, Arturo Puckerin and Martin Ross. In November, one will go up against Democrat Karen Garvey.
71st District: As Rep. Afendoulis runs for the U.S. House, three Republicans are trying to take her seat: John Inhulsen, Bryan Posthumus and Robert Regan. Inhulsen is an attorney who was previously the Kent GOP chair and helped with the Trump presidential campaign in Michigan. Posthumus, a farmer, is the son of formfer Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus and brother of the current Kent County clerk. Regan is an entrepreneur. The November election will see one of them up against Democrat Bill Saxton.
Muskegon County sheriff: In this Democratic primary, incumbent Sheriff Michael Poulin will face challenger Mirelda Tokarczyk. Whoever wins will go up against Republican Jason Hall in November.
Kalamazoo County sheriff: Two Republicans, retired Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Capt. Shannon Bagley and Deputy Thomas Swafford, are vying to challenge Democrat incumbent Richard Fuller in November.
Ionia County sheriff: Republican incumbent Charlie Noll, who was appointed to the job in 2018 to replace Dale Miller when he retired, is being challenged by private investigator Douglas Gurski and former corrections officer Robert Rickert.
Branch County sheriff: The Republican primary features the incumbent, John Pollack, and a former Democrat, former Quincy Police Chief Johnny Lopez. Lopez first challenged Pollack as a Democrat in 2012. He switched parties before trying again this time.
St. Joseph County sheriff: Republican incumbent Mark Lillywhite is being challenged by Gordon Evilsizor. Lillywhite was appointed to the job earlier this year when Sheriff Brad Balk retired. Evilsizor is a former patrolman and Florence Township supervisor who is now a businessman.
Also in St. Joseph County, incumbent Prosecutor John McDonough is facing a Republican primary challenger in David Marvin. McDonough has held the job for more than a decade, but has faced criticism recently after crashing his SUV into a fence and being charged with drunken driving.
There is no Democrat running, so whoever wins this primary will get the job by default.
Hamilton Community Schools: $65 million bond for new middle school and other improvements, plus a separate $3.6 million operating millage.
Cedar Springs Public Schools: $68 million bond for building upgrades. An $82 million bond failed last November.
Jenison Public Schools: $61 million bond for building upgrades.
West Ottawa Public Schools: $13 million operating millage renewal and $687,000 sinking fund.
The number of absentee ballots across the state has skyrocketed this election, in part because of new laws that make it easier to vote absentee and in part because state officials are encouraging it as a coronavirus mitigation effort.
The city of Grand Rapids alone says it has already nearly four times as many absentee ballots returned as it counted in the August 2016 primary. In 2016, 5,949 ballots were counted in Grand Rapids. As of Friday morning, the Clerk’s Office had received 20,599 ballots — and with a total of 35,350 distributed, more are sure to come in.
Kalamazoo County says it has sent out some 56,000 absentee ballots and gotten about half back.
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has warned it is going to take until Wednesday or Thursday to count all the votes, noting that is at least partly because clerks are prohibited from beginning to process absentee ballots before election day.
Benson, a Democrat, is pushing to change that but reform measures have so far not passed the Republican-led Legislature. It’s possible we could see changes before the November election, which should have high turnout as people cast their ballots for president.
Grand Rapids City Clerk Joel Hondorp said he didn’t have an estimate yet on how long it would take to count all the absentee ballots, but said his staff would get started as soon as allowed by law — 7 a.m. Tuesday. He noted his office did get a fourth high-speed tabulator to help count votes.