Lansing-About 20 percent of eligible voters were expected to turn out in today’s presidential primary.
No official statewide projection of voter turnout exists. But officials in many parts of the state, including Detroit and Grand Rapids, were estimating roughly one of every five registered voters will participate.
The state has 7.1 million registered voters, so if predictions are correct, just under 1.5 million people may vote. Turnout could vary widely by community.
“It’s going to be a patchwork quilt,” Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson said. “We have so many different variables involved. This is a very unusual election.”
Mark Grebner of Practical Political Consulting in East Lansing expected a slightly higher turnout, with nearly 1.6 million people voting overall. Of those, roughly 55 to 60 percent would vote in the GOP race, he said.
The Republican ballot was expected to attract the most voters because it has a full slate of candidates. Arizona Sen. John McCain and Michigan native Mitt Romney were in a close race, while former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee also was expected to do well.
Voters who wanted to vote in the Democratic primary had fewer choices, since Hillary Rodham Clinton was the only major candidate on the ballot.
Barack Obama and John Edwards pulled their names from the Democratic ballot after Michigan broke national party rules by moving up its primary date. Their supporters were urging voters to vote for uncommitted, which could leave some delegates free to back Obama or Edwards. Write-in votes won’t be counted.
The primary date itself is unusual for Michigan, which typically doesn’t hold presidential primaries until February. The date was moved up to try and give the state more say in the selection of presidential candidates, but the move cost Michigan all of its Democratic national convention delegates and half its Republican ones.
Party leaders are confident the delegates eventually will be seated.
In the GOP primary in 2000, the last year there was a Republican presidential contest, a record 1.4 million Michigan voters turned out. No Republican primary was held in 2004 because President Bush faced no opposition, but about 160,000 Democrats voted by mail, over the Internet and in party caucuses that year.
Absentee ballots typically account for nearly 20 percent of the vote in some Michigan elections. Some Michigan cities were reporting that more than 80 percent of distributed absentee ballots had been returned by yesterday.
In some places, voters who had spoiled their ballots by writing in the name of their favorites or who had problems trying to vote for uncommitted were recasting their ballots. About 500 voters had requested new absentee ballots in Detroit alone.
Voters have to indicate on a form whether they want a Republican or Democratic ballot. Local clerks won’t keep track of the information and it won’t be public record. But the names of voters and which ballot they took will be given to the state Republican and Democratic parties.
Michigan now requires voters to show a photo ID to vote. If they don’t have a photo ID with them, voters can sign an affidavit and cast a ballot anyway.