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More voters cast ballots in primary than expected, but turnout still low

Keith Ivey

More than 82% of all registered voters sat out Michigan’s primary election this week. 

That’s not the all-time low some observers predicted before the election, but they say the number is still dismal. And many of them expect low voter turnout again for Michigan’s general election in November.

“That’s going to favor Republicans and favor tea party/libertarian/conservative-type candidates and voters in terms of their preferences because they will show up out of proportion to most of the rest of the electorate,” said Bill Ballenger, who's with the newsletter Inside Michigan Politics.

That’s why Democrats are focusing on turning out more voters for November’s general election.

“Voter turnout in an off year is a big challenge for the Democratic party,” said Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson. “And we’ve identified nearly a million Democrats that did not vote in 2010. And we’re working hard to turn them out.”

“It starts with, most importantly, good candidates,” Johnson said. “And we’ve got good candidates. We’re united to go deliver a good message to those voters.”

The low-water mark for voter turnout in a Michigan August primary came in 1990, when just 15.1% of people old enough to vote cast a ballot. The highest rate of participation on record was in 1982, when 24.4% of the voting age population showed up at the polls.