Political Insider: Record voter turnout predicted for Michigan

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
Having filled out their ballots, Grosse Pointe Woods residents wait in line to feed them into the tabulating machine at the Precinct 5 voting station in the gymnasium inside Montieth Elementary School in Grosse Pointe Woods were there was a strong early turnout of voters casting ballots in the 2016 Presidential Election on Tuesday, November 8, 2016.

Michigan voters could set a mid-term turnout record this fall, said former state Elections Director Chris Thomas, who is predicting more than four million ballots will be cast in the Nov. 6 election. 

That mark would easily surpass the state’s mid-term turnout record of 3.8 million in 2006, which produced “a bit of a wave nationally” and saw Democrats flip the U.S. House, Thomas said. Mid-term turnout typically hovers around 3.2 million, but record turnout in the August primary points to unusually high voter motivation.

“I saw Oakland County typically around 193,000, and 320,000 people show up in that election,” said Thomas, who retired last year after 36 years working under five administrations and four bosses from both major political parties. “That’s significant.”

Thomas shared his personal projection during a press conference where he announced his support for Promote the Vote, a ballot initiative that would amend the state Constitution to allow no-reason absentee voting, expand registration options and restore straight-ticket voting.

After more than three decades in a non-partisan role, Thomas  told reporters it is the first proposal he’s ever endorsed. Michigan has “fallen behind” on voter access, both in registration options and at the ballot, he said.

A Republican-sponsored ban on straight-ticket voting will take effect for the first time this fall, prohibiting voters from checking a single box to select all candidates from a single political party.

Thomas said the ban would likely have the largest impact in presidential election years — when the ballots are longest and turnout is highest — because voting will take longer for residents who had traditionally cast straight-party ballots.

But with high turnout expected, "there will be an impact this year as well,” Thomas said. “I wouldn’t predict disastrous, but there will be some impact in terms of wait times.”

State lawmakers back Kavanaugh

Eight Michigan lawmakers are among over 400 state and local officials who advocate for small government and signed a letter to the U.S. Senate urging the "swift" confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Signatories include Republican state Sens. Darwin Booher, Dave Hildenbrand, Rick Jones and Phil Pavlov and Reps. Tristan Cole, Peter Lucido, Hank Vaupel and Michael Webber

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington earlier this month.

In an undated letter, the lawmakers describe Kavanaugh as "the single most qualified person in the country to serve on the Supreme Court."

The officials say Kavanaugh has a "proven track record of strict constitutionalism," and is a "consensus builder who works with all stakeholders to assess cases based on the law rather than personal preference."

The letter does not reference the recent allegation of sexual assault against Kavanaugh by Christine Blasey Ford.

"͘There is no attribute of Judge Kavanuagh's character, intellect or life of public service that should preclude his immediate installment to the Supreme Court of the United States," the letter reads. 

Two Dems get DCCC help 

The national Democratic group for U.S. House candidates added two Michigan candidates to its competitive Red to Blue program. 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently named Haley Stevens of Rochester Hills and Matt Longjohn of Portage to the program, which gives them access to organizational and fundraising support from the DCCC. It is not an endorsement.

Stevens is running against Republican Lena Epstein in the 11th District, where Rep. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham, is retiring. Longjohn is is hoping to unseat longtime GOP Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph. 

Ann Coulter event canceled

The Michigan Republican Party confirmed this week it has canceled a fundraiser with controversial conservative commentator Ann Coulter that had been scheduled for Thursday in Oakland County, citing a "perfect storm" of scheduling and venue issues.

Ann Coulter

The state and county party had been co-hosting the event, which was billed as "a special night with our Republican nominees," and were seeking contributions of $75 for entry or $1,500 for a VIP reception with Coulter, author of “Resistance is Futile: How the Trump-hating left lost its collective mind.”

Michigan GOP communications director Sarah Anderson said the decision to cancel the event had nothing to do with ticket sales and said the party is going to try to reschedule with Coulter for a later date. 

Coulter, known for fiery rhetoric, this week dismissed sexual assault allegations against President Donald Trump's U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a smear campaign.

“White male. White privilege,” Coulter said on Fox News. “If you fit the narrative, you are guilty and there is no coming back from that and it’s not just Democrats and the media running the country, it’s any white male can be accused with an evidence-free accusation like this.”

Christine Beasley Ford alleges Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high school party more than three decades ago. Her attorneys said Tuesday the FBI should investigate her case before she testifies in a Senate hearing and is put "on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident," according to The New York Times. 

Contributors: Melissa Nann Burke, Jonathan Oosting