Absentee ballots favor Democrats in Michigan, causing worry among GOP

Republicans traditionally have embraced absentee voting but consultants place some of the blame for Tuesday’s discrepancy on Trump’s attacks against the practice. (Shutterstock)

In a historic primary election Tuesday, Democrats were far more likely than Republicans to cast absentee ballots — and that could spell trouble for the GOP in the fall.

While statewide numbers likely won’t be available until week’s end, a review of races in Oakland, Macomb and Kent counties by Bridge found that absentee votes accounted for 75 percent to 80 percent of Democratic ballots compared to 55 percent for Republican ones. 

That’s among 1.6 million absentee ballots, more than 300,000 more than had ever been cast in a Michigan election, 25 percent above the previous high, the 2016 presidential election.

Republicans traditionally have embraced absentee voting and consultants in both parties blame some of Tuesday’s discrepancy on President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on the safety of the practice.

“The Republicans have really managed to screw themselves,” said Mark Grebner, a Democratic consultant who watched “waves” of Democratic absentee ballots flow into election clerk offices, far more than Republican ones. 

“They’re campaigning against mail-in voting, and the only people listening to them are Republicans.” 

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is predicting absentee voting will hit record levels in November, perhaps as many as 3 million, more than double the 1.3 million cast by absentee voters in 2016.

The surge comes as many voters are reluctant to visit polling places amid the coronavirus pandemic and follows a voter-approved constitutional amendment in 2018 that allows for no-reason absentee voting.

Benson also made absentee voting easier this year by mailing applications to 7.7 million registered voters.

Republicans traditionally have resisted efforts to expand voting, with some thinking that doing so benefits Democrats and others expressing fraud fears.

For weeks, Trump has tweeted about what he says are the dangers of mail-in voting, and even Republicans acknowledge that has had an impact.

“President Trump has brought up the issue,” said Stu Sandler, a Republican consultant who once worked for Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, “and I think it’s made Republicans more wary than Democrats from using absentee voting.”

Consider: In 2018, State Sen. Peter Lucido, a Macomb County Republican, got 34 percent of the vote total from absentee ballots, while his Democratic opponent received 31 percent.

But on Tuesday, in the primary to become Macomb County prosecutor, Lucido advanced to the general election with 53 percent of his votes from absentee ballots — compared to 79 percent of ballots on the Democratic side, which was won by retired judge Mary Chrzanowski.

The same phenomenon played out in Kent and Oakland counties.

In west Michigan’s Kent County, which leans Republican, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, a Democrat, got 74 percent of his votes from absentee voters. His November opponent, Republican John James, got 54 percent of his votes from absentee voters.

In Oakland County, a suburban county north of Detroit that has backed both Democrats and Republicans, 72 percent of Democrats voted absentee in the county executive primary won by David Coulter. On the Republican side, won by former state Sen. Mike Kowall, 55 percent of votes were absentee.

Given the new reality, partially created by the COVID-19 pandemic but also Michigan’s expanded voting rights, Republican candidates will have to adjust to the rise in absentee voting or they’ll be at a disadvantage, said John Sellek, CEO of Harbor Strategies of Lansing who has worked for Republican office holders and has consulted campaigns.

With absentee voting skyrocketing, Republican candidates will have to “massively adjust their resources to that fact,” Sellek said. “They know they have to pick things up.”

Michigan Republicans have long supported absentee voting, encouraging older voters to cast early ballots, Sandler, the consultant, said.

But some voters remain cautious about casting ballots by mail or dropping them off with election clerks, Sandler said.  He said the discrepancy between absentee and traditional voting won’t matter if Republicans show up to polls in big numbers.

“We need more Republicans to vote securely whether by mail or in person,” he said.

One reality of a surge in absentee voting, whether driven by pandemic fears or the new ability for all voters to do so, is it will compress the election campaign season.

Because absentee ballots are sent out six weeks before an election, which would be mid-September, candidates have to make their pitch long before Nov. 3 if they want to reach all voters.

“You’ve got to have a 60-day conversation now,” said pollster Richard Czuba. 

“You can’t wait, if you’re running for the state Legislature, for the last three weeks. You have to start talking to them earlier.”

Sellek said that will be expensive: Get-out-the vote campaigns targeted at absentee voters typically involved sending direct mail to 25 percent of voters. Now they’ll have to hit 50 percent or more.

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Comments

Constant Craving
Wed, 08/05/2020 - 4:15pm

Why oh why couldn't this have been the general election? It's just a big tease.

LMAO
Wed, 08/05/2020 - 4:16pm

“The Republicans have really managed to screw themselves,” said Mark Grebner, a Democratic consultant who watched “waves” of Democratic absentee ballots flow into election clerk offices, far more than Republican ones.

“They’re campaigning against mail-in voting, and the only people listening to them are Republicans.”

Elsie Anne
Thu, 08/06/2020 - 4:42pm

Yes! Statistically, mail-in voting has favored neither Democrats nor Republicans, having functioned well in both blue and red states. But Trump's fear-mongering has planted suspicion among his followers, potentially damaging his own party's campaign efforts.
However, the statistics aren't complete unless we know the percentage of blue and red voters who voted in person at the polls. If that turnout was heavily red, then the GOP may have simply inconvenienced its voters rather than actually excluded them. We'll know more in November (or whenever all the votes are tallied.) And while we're at it, how long before we get rid of this ridiculous Electoral College system, which was a concession to slave-holding states in the first place and accomplishes nothing except to make huge numbers of votes irrelevant?

Feelings
Wed, 08/05/2020 - 4:17pm

This might be another article with crickets in the comments from Republicans.

JP
Wed, 08/05/2020 - 4:27pm

Hopefully the post office isn't further crippled by November, I never received my mail ballot that I requested months ago. According to the online check I am registered for the mail ballot, I guess it got lost in the mail.

Marshal
Wed, 08/05/2020 - 4:36pm

Why didn't you call or go to your city clerk to get a ballot?

RAP
Thu, 08/06/2020 - 9:24am

My daughter didn't receive hers either. She called the township office and their records showed her application had been processed and the ballot mailed. She gave it plenty of time to arrive and finally went to the township office in person and got a new ballot. Yes, it was a bit inconvenient and had she was not working from home due to COVID-19 she could not have made it to the offices during normal business hours. However, our clerk will bend over backward to help people out. She offers to stay late, drive to your house, or make other special arrangements to accommodate people in the township. Even tough she runs in the opposite party from what I normally vote, I vote for her and have done so for years.

Trump SNL Mango
Wed, 08/05/2020 - 4:31pm

Please don't blame the Republicans. They are merely hypnotized by Trump.

middle of the mit
Wed, 08/05/2020 - 5:35pm

I am literally surprised that there were only 300,000 more absentee ballots than there were during 2016. I understand that this isn't the Presidential election, but come on MI! Get out your vote!

I see it is projected to be twice as many in the Presidential election. Get out your vote!

[[[Republicans traditionally have resisted efforts to expand voting, with some thinking that doing so benefits Democrats and others expressing fraud fears.]]]

That is Paul Weyrichs goo goo syndrome. We want less voters and then they act like that isn't what they are trying to do. Get our your vote!

Seems as though Republicans are using the fraudulent absentee ballots at least 25% more than they did though. Good on ya! Way to be fraudulent!

[[[Michigan Republicans have long supported absentee voting, encouraging older voters to cast early ballots, Sandler, the consultant, said.

But some voters remain cautious about casting ballots by mail or dropping them off with election clerks, Sandler said. ]]]

See what happens when you do what Trump says.......even when it goes against everything you used to believe in?

[[One reality of a surge in absentee voting, whether driven by pandemic fears or the new ability for all voters to do so, is it will compress the election campaign season.]]

I can't see anything wrong with that. Can anyone else?

KJMC
Thu, 08/06/2020 - 8:44am

This is one of the routes for the President to get re-elected. It came up in an election problem simulation run by a think tank: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/how-2020-election-coul...
It goes like this: GOP strategists see that the upcoming election will have a heavy turnout of Democrats voting by mail, while GOP voters are much more likely to go to the polls. They prepare beforehand. On election day, the initial results show the President won Michigan. On day two, the GOP has lawyers contest the mail ballots as fraudulent, potentially having the Attorney General send federal marshals to seize ballots until the court challenges play out. Then they play a court-challenge-run-out-the-clock game. If they manage to delay the counting of those mail ballots long enough, they end up with the challenges at the Supreme Court, which rules in a 5/4 decision that the state of the counts at the time are final - with tens of thousands of mail-in ballots never counted.

The President has been setting this option up for a while now, constantly claiming that mail balloting is full of fraud. The SCOTUS endgame is the same as what happened in Bush v. Gore. Then it only took Florida to decide things. This year Michigan is one of the states they could try this in, given our very high mail-in ballot rate.

Ouchez
Thu, 08/06/2020 - 8:59am

When the DC Republicans had the house-senate and Prez. they did nothing that first 2 years on the health care issue, NOTHING, and that was the number 1 issue for a majority, so they really have no one to blame when they really lose big in November. What I would have wanted to see was a new program that would cover all CITIZENS through age 18 and continue for pre-conditions. Dental and eye also covered. To pay for this new program I would cut military spending, end all war fighting, cut military foreign bases by 70%, raise the tax on alcohol and tobacco and place a tax on sugared drinks. A national sales tax or an increase in the income tax, or both would need to be instituted and limits placed on medical procedures cost. What would not be covered is drug or alcohol rehab and schools would be mandated to reach kids about the dangers of all drugs and alcohol since their experimenting with these products would not at all be covered under the health plan if they decide to experiment in that area. If all goes well after a decade this program could be extended ro all CITIZENS.

Mark
Fri, 08/07/2020 - 9:20pm

Glad your not running for any office.

Cathy
Thu, 08/06/2020 - 2:21pm

As we read this the GOP is looking for ways to defraud the elections as opposed to doing anything honest for the electorate. Voter suppression for their own enrichment and to hell with the Country. Vote Blue.

Ed S
Fri, 08/07/2020 - 8:13am

Perhaps the Republicans could realize that their message is the problem, not the absentee ballot. Undying fealty to a racist and autocratic President will do a pretty good job of sending votes to your Democratic opponent. It has worked wonders for me at least.

Ouchez
Fri, 08/07/2020 - 8:44am

Most people crave freebies and a do what you want with no self discipline or responsibility life style, and if those type of mindset people can now vote with no effort,,they will keep voting democrat until there is no public money left to keep them oblivious to what is really happening.

Mark
Fri, 08/07/2020 - 9:27pm

You need to rein in your propaganda. Not everyone craves freebies, its an urban myth. Next thing you will be posting about Willie Horton. What does effort have to do with it anyway? you really think if you have to leave the comfort of your high-rise apt. to go vote will distract the millions of angry Americans from voting to rid this nation of the most obscene American President in History? If will give you a clue to help illuminate your dense brain, there will be no more taxpayer monies when the Republican Aristocrats have it all.