August 5, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Michigan primary voting closes on wet, stormy day

The polls closed Tuesday as Michiganians showed up in low numbers, but it was unclear whether they matched or broke the 1990 record for the worst turnout.

Election officials and political campaign strategists braced for low voter participation given the lack of competitive statewide primaries and thunderstorms that rolled through Metro Detroit and other parts of Michigan during the day.

For the first time, there was no contested primary for governor or U.S. Senate at the top of the ticket to drive voter turnout. But voters will decide the fate of partisan primary candidates from Congress to county positions and whether to reduce property taxes statewide for manufacturers and small businesses.

Across Metro Detroit, five congressional primaries in the 8th, 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th districts are at the top of the primary ballot because there are no contested party nominations for U.S. Senate or the governor’s office.

U.S. Reps. Kerry Bentivolio, R-Milford, and John Conyers Jr., D-Detroit, face aggressive challengers. The other three races involve open seats where U.S. Reps. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, and Mike Rogers, R-Howell, decided to retire or where U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, opted to run for the open U.S. Senate seat when Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, decided to retire.

Statewide, though, voters are being asked to decide whether to adopt the Legislature’s proposal to gradually phase out the personal property tax levied on the value of equipment owned by most manufacturers and small businesses.

The Proposal 1 ballot question asks voters to approve the tax cut and a shift of about $500 million in other taxes and fees to replace the revenue local governments will lose from the tax break for businesses.

In Wayne County, embattled Executive Robert Ficano’s future hangs in the balance as voters have an array of choices in an 11-candidate Democratic primary.

The financial fate of two Macomb County communities trying to avoid emergency managers and the cash-strapped regional bus service SMART also may be riding on Tuesday’s election.

The Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation is asking voters in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties to boost its property tax operating millage from 0.59 mills to 1 mill so the agency can buy new buses and balance its budget.

Outstate, there are heated Republican primaries in the 3rd Congressional District in west Michigan where Grand Rapids businessman Brian Ellis is challenging U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Cascade Township, and the 4th Congressional District in mid-Michigan, where state Sen. John Moolenaar of Midland faces Saginaw-area retired businessman Paul Mitchell for the open seat of retiring U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland. In both cases, the winner would be the odds-on favorite to be the next congressman from those areas. Both campaigns feature self-funded businessmen seeking to win their first major public office.

About a half-dozen people filed into Word of Power Ministry in Highland Park as polls opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning for the primary despite thunderstorms and flooding.

Keith Watson, 46, was the first to cast a ballot at the polling location Tuesday morning.

“I just wanted to exercise my right to vote,” Watson said. “I just feel like it’s my civic duty. I live right across the street so I have no excuse not to come.”

Meanwhile at Johnson Elementary School in Milford, there was a small but steady stream of voters despite a cold constant rain. Among the voters was Bentivolio, who shook hands with a pair of voters outside the school gymnasium before scurrying in to cast his ballot.

His challenger, Trott, voted early Tuesday afternoon at a church in Birmingham accompanied by his wife, Kappy, and their three children before heading to a polling precinct in Troy.

Staff writers Chad Livengood, Jennifer Chambers, Neal Rubin and Richard Burr contributed.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop and his wife, Cristina Bishop, fill out their voter I.D. forms at the Rochester Community House in Rochester on Tuesday. / Daniel Mears / The Detroit News
Voters sprint into the Rochester Community House to vote during a violent ... (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
On this primary election day, Bishop Benjamin Hoke opens the doors to Word ... (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)