Michigan adds 11,918 cases, 242 deaths from COVID-19 over last week

Sec. of State: Trump likely to win Michigan officially

Jonathan Oosting, and Michael Gerstein

Lansing — More Michigan voters cast ballots last Tuesday than they did in 2012, but fewer voted for either of the two major-party presidential candidates and an unusually large number sat out the presidential race.

Republican President-elect Donald Trump remains on pace to win Michigan’s 16 electoral votes after defeating Hillary Clinton by 13,107 votes, a margin of 0.27 percent. But the state won’t certify results until the end of this month.

While there is a possibility Clinton could narrow the gap as county clerks and canvassing boards double check their results and report them to the Board of State Canvassers, the process is unlikely to change the outcome.

“In every election, small vote shifts occur during the canvassing process but nothing to the degree of having a 13,000-vote margin overturned,” said Secretary of State Office spokesman Fred Woodhams.

Unofficial results show 87,810 Michigan voters refused to pick one of the six presidential candidates who qualified for the ballot or chose to write in an alternative, up from 46,713 voters four years ago.

Experts attribute the non-participation to dissatisfaction with both Trump and Clinton, who combined to receive 137,000 fewer votes than President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney in 2012.

Public opinion polling leading up to the election suggested both major party candidates were “historically unpopular,” said Dave Dulio, chairman of the political science department at Oakland University, “which I think really does feed into the reason for so many people skipping the top of the ticket.

“With the two most unpopular candidates in history, it’s not a surprise.”

Trump received 162,330 more Michigan votes than Romney four years ago but 36,160 fewer than former President George W. Bush in 2004, according to unofficial results. Clinton had the lowest Michigan vote total for a Democratic presidential candidate since Al Gore in 2000.

Election results to be certified

County clerks need to certify local results and report them to the state by Nov. 22. The Board of State Canvassers, comprised of two Democratic and two Republican appointees, is scheduled to meet to canvass and certify final tallies by Nov. 28.

Oakland County is on track to have its unofficial ballot results finalized by Nov. 21, Oakland County Clerk elections director Joel Rozell said. The comprehensive process for certifying ballots involves an extensive 20-item list for each precinct.

“We’re making good progress,” he said.

County canvassing boards review the poll book to compare the number of voters on record with the number of ballots registered by tabulator machines. If there’s a discrepancy between the two numbers, officials feed the ballots again through the machine to double check against the poll book number.

Discrepancies — if they happen — are usually caused by simple matters, such as a ballot jamming and being accidentally counted by the machine twice, Rozell said.

The local review provides “a very good bipartisan check and balance” to ensure the validity of election results, said Macomb County Chief Deputy Clerk Todd Schmitz, noting canvassers there have been meeting every day since the election to ensure certification by Nov. 22.

Wayne County also plans to have its election results certified by next Tuesday, said Wayne County Clerk’s office spokeswoman Jina Sawani.

If the presidential election lead happens to decline to 2,000 votes or lower, state law requires an automatic recount. Candidates also could request a recount of certain precincts, but this is unlikely since Trump clinched the presidency without Michigan’s electoral votes.

Third-party votes up

Clinton supporters have despaired over the nearly 88,000 Michigan voters who cast a ballot this year but sat out the presidential election or chose a write-in candidate.

“If you are on the Clinton campaign today, and you see those numbers, I think you’re wondering, ‘What could we have done to motivate those individuals to vote for us,’ ” said Democratic consultant T.J. Bucholz of Vanguard Public Affairs.

Michigan voters also picked third-party candidates at a rate not seen since 1992 and 1996, when businessman Ross Perot twice made the ballot. Libertarian Gary Johnson led the way with 172,726 of 242,502 third-party votes, personally quadrupling the 43,163 votes for all third-party candidates in 2012.

While it appears “at first blush” that Johnson may have siphoned votes from Trump, any third-party effect “is a tough nut to crack,” Dulio said, noting Clinton had polled better in head-to-head matchups against Trump than she did when additional candidates were included.

It’s not yet clear how many write-in votes were cast in the presidential race. Write-in votes only count for candidates who meet Michigan’s requirements and are registered with the state, so some write-in votes could be disqualified during the county canvassing process.

Despite higher statewide turnout numbers than four years ago — unofficial results indicate 92,332 more voters cast ballots this year — non-participation in the presidential race was up in all 10 of Michigan’s largest counties.

The discrepancy was largest in Oakland County, where an additional 8,104 voters who cast ballots did not pick one of the six listed presidential candidates.

Clinton won Oakland County by 53,849 votes, up slightly from Obama’s 52,488-vote margin over Romney in 2012. Both major party candidates received fewer Oakland County votes than Obama or Romney four years prior.