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Michigan absentee ballots data shows heavy interest in Democratic counties

someone putting things in a mailbox
Michigan residents have sought 1.6 million absentee ballots so far but only returned about 155,000, state records show. (Kristen Prahl /

With a month before the Nov. 8 election, over 1.6 million Michigan voters have requested an absentee ballot so far, the Michigan Secretary of State’s office reported this week.

That’s above the 1.16 million who had requested one as of early October 2018, the last gubernatorial election. But that was before voters passed no-reason absentee voting, which caused mail-in ballots to jump to 3.2 million in 2020.


The latest numbers show that voters in many counties that supported President Joe Biden, a Democrat, have requested more ballots — as a percentage of 2018 vote totals — than those in counties that supported former President Donald Trump, a Republican.


In Leelanau County, 6,742 voters have requested an absentee ballot, equal to nearly 47 percent of all votes cast in 2018. That’s the highest rate in the state. In 2020, county voters backed Biden.

In contrast, 1,543 voters in Arenac County have asked to vote absentee, equal to 23 percent of 2018 vote totals. It backed Trump with over 67 percent of its 2020 vote. 

In fact, the 53 counties — out of 83 statewide — with the lowest absentee rates so far this year were Trump-backing counties.

During the 2020 presidential election, Trump and other Republicans criticized the use of absentee ballots, and Republicans were far more likely to vote in person than Democrats.

Voting absentee

To vote absentee, registered voters must request their ballot by 5 p.m. Nov. 4.

Bridge Michigan has a guide about the upcoming deadlines for registration, absentee ballots and other voter information.

That led to controversy when in-person results, often released first on Election Night, showed Republicans ahead. Later, those leads were erased when absentee ballot totals, which take longer to process, were released.

What it may mean for the Nov. 8 general election is that final results could take a while.

The results also mean that voters are either taking their time or remain undecided: Of the 1.6 million ballots sought, 155,142 have been returned as of this week.

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