Mich. sees 30% increase in absentee ballots from ’12

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

More than 500,000 absentee ballots have been issued for Tuesday’s Republican and Democratic presidential primaries — a 30 percent increase in the number of mail-in ballots sent to voters for the 2012 primary, according to state elections data.

About two-thirds of the 512,593 absentee ballots issued to Republican and Democratic voters had been returned to municipal clerks through Wednesday, according to the Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s office.

Johnson’s office says 340,025 absentee ballots had been returned as of Wednesday, surpassing the 328,293 absentee ballots cast in the 2012 presidential primary.

About 61 percent of the 288,584 Republican ballots issued have been returned and about 73 percent of the 219,157 Democratic ballots have been returned to local clerks, according to the state’s tracking data.

“The Democratic ballots are coming back faster than the Republican ballots because there’s less to think about,” said Mark Grebner, an East Lansing Democratic consultant tracking absentee ballot returns.

The Republican primary ballot lists 13 candidates, even though just Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and businessman Donald Trump remain actively campaigning.

The state’s deadline to withdraw from the ballot was in mid-December, well-before the GOP’s crowded field began to winnow after the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses. The four remaining Republican candidates will square off at 9 p.m. Thursday in a televised debate on Fox News from Detroit’s historic Fox Theatre.

The number of ballots in the Republican race issued this cycle is an increase of 47,958 ballots from the 2012 primary that effectively was a two-man race between former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

There have been 219,157 ballots issued in the Democratic primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and 160,393 returned, according to state data.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is still listed on the Democratic ballot, but he dropped out of the race after a poor showing in the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses. Also listed on the Democratic ballot is San Diego businessman Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, who submitted the minimum 12,823 signatures needed to get on the Michigan ballot.

State officials have not yet made a turnout projection for Tuesday’s presidential primaries.

The competitive 2012 Republican presidential drew 996,499 votes, while Democrats casted 194,887 votes that year in an uncontested primary for incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama.

The modern record for a GOP presidential primary in Michigan is the 2000 contest between then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Arizona Sen. John McCain, which attracted more than 1.2 million votes. McCain won that primary before going on to lose the GOP nomination to Bush.

Based on absentee ballots, Grebner estimates turnout for the primary will be around 2.2 million — 1.3 million for the Republican primary and 900,000 for the Democratic contest.

clivengood@detroitnews.com

(517) 371-3660

Twitter.com/ChadLivengood