voter turnout

Today on Stateside

Polling place.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan election results became official today, with the Board of State Canvassers certifying the results. And one thing is certain: Voter turnout was low in 2014. It was the lowest, in fact, for a governor's race since 1998. With that comes some interesting consequences. Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta of our It's Just Politics team are here to explain.

Listen to Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta below:

Map showing counties with the highest and lowest voter turnout.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The overall voter turnout for Michigan was a bit underwhelming this election cycle - less than half of those people eligible to vote in Michigan showed up at the polls on Election Day.

But what about individual counties? Which had the best voter turnout, and which had the worst?

Here's what we found from data provided by the office of the Michigan Secretary of State:

Counties with lowest voter turnout:

Ups and downs in voter turnout in Michigan.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The number we're talking about is the percentage of the population old enough to vote.

Less than half of those people showed up at the polls on Election Day in Michigan.

Voter turnout for this year's election came in at 41.6%. In Michigan's last gubernatorial election four years ago, 42.9% of the voting age population turned up to vote.

Michigan's secretary of state's office reports that about 3.2 million votes were cast Tuesday - around 83,000 fewer than in the 2010 midterm election.

To find a lower turnout stat for midterm or presidential elections, you have to go back to 1990 in Michigan.

Here's a chart showing the history of voter turnout in Michigan since 1948. It shows gubernatorial election years and presidential election years. Presidential elections traditionally draw more people to the polls - hence the zig-zag. (The Pew Research Center has more on why that is.)

The chart:

Gov. Rick Snyder has been elected to a second term.
Wikimedia Commons

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry review Election Day in Michigan including voter turnout, victories and disappointments for both parties, and what yesterday’s results could mean for the next four years.


Today on Stateside:

  • Election Day coverage!

  • New mailers have added an element of peer pressure by telling you whether or not your neighbors voted, but can this tactic actually increase voter turnout?

  • When you cast your vote today, you're not only doing something good for our democracy, you're doing something good for your health. That's not just opinion: it's backed up by science. We find out what's going on here.

Photo of junk mail.
Judith E. Bell / Flickr

Among the campaign mailers from different candidates, some voters in Michigan received something a little different: a postcard telling them whether they voted in a previous election and which of their neighbors did or didn’t vote.

One such flyer reads:

“Because we keep track of every individual voter, when you skip an election, we worry it could become a habit – a bad habit we want you to break. We’ll be looking for you at the polls Tuesday.”

This tactic adds a sense of peer pressure to the voting process, but does it actually increase voter participation?

Political consultant Mark Grebner discusses these postcards with us. He tells us how this group knows about your voting habits, and whether you should be worried if you received a postcard like this. He also tells us about the group behind these mailers, The Michigan Voter Project.

*Listen to our conversation with Mark Grebner above.

screen grab

President Obama told a Detroit crowd Saturday that Democrats can pull off some big victories in Michigan races this Tuesday – if there’s a “sense of urgency” about getting out the vote.

The president rallied an exuberant crowd of more than 6,000 on the Wayne State University campus.

He urged them to sustain that energy over the next three days, and use it to get fellow Democrats to the polls.      

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss who’ll be more hurt by low voter turnout on Tuesday, more Congressional race surprises, and a Detroit developer who dropped $3.1 million on some of the city's worst properties.


Steve Carmody

Midterm elections tend not to draw out many Democrat voters, so as Election Day draws closer, the Democratic Party is pulling out all the stops to encourage voters to turn out. 

Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee of Michigan’s 5th District, hosted Bill Clinton in Flint today. Kildee joined us on Stateside to talk about the importance of midterm elections.  

“Many people mistakenly believe that we choose the course the country will take once every four years when we elect a president. Here in Michigan, we make those decisions in the midterms,” Kildee says, including decisions about congressional seats and who sits in the governor’s chair.  

Top Democrats who've visited Michigan include Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Bill Clinton. Kildee says President Obama may visit the state within the next week.  

If you have been listening to the news much lately, you are probably aware there’s a statewide primary election next week, and a fairly interesting one at that.

Four of Michigan’s 16 congressmen are leaving this year, one to run for the Senate. Some of the others, including Justin Amash, Dan Benishek, Kerry Bentivolio and John Conyers have serious primary challenges in their own parties.

Every seat in the Legislature is up for grabs. Democrats desperately want to win at least one house back. Term limits mean that nearly one third of all the legislators have to leave.

That has meant energetic and expensive primaries in most of those districts, and a number of incumbent legislators face primary opponents as well. They include establishment Republicans fighting Tea Party challengers, and Democratic state Sens.Vincent Gregory and Virgil Smith, both are trying to fend off challenges from term-limited legislators playing musical chairs.

Theresa Thompson / Flickr

The curtain is closing on baby boomers, as the so-called "millennial generation" is taking up a larger share of the electorate. This voting block surpasses seniors who are eligible to vote.

But many millennials are not politically engaged.

“We feel that as one voice, as a younger person, we don’t have a lot of say in politics and I think that also drives their decision to remain out of the discussion as well,” said Connor Walby, a millennial and the campaign manager for State Rep. Frank Foster, R-Petoskey.

Walby also said the negative messages in politics that are seen on social media affect millennials' decision to vote as well.

“With our generation and having Twitter and Facebook, we are blasted with a lot of the 24 hour news cycle. And with that you also get a lot of the negative news coverage,” Walby said.  “I think a lot of our generation is pretty sick and tired of some of the policies that have been put in place and they are just sick of the politicians and the political atmosphere in general.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A new report suggests unmarried women may be a critical swing vote in Michigan’s elections this fall.

The Voter Participation Center works to get more unmarried women, people of color, and young people to vote. But those groups tend to show the biggest voting dropoff in off-year elections.

Those also happen to be the voters Democrats need  to win in this fall’s gubernatorial and congressional elections.

People voting
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It's not uncommon for voter turnout to be lower on primary Election Days than on the big general Election Days in November.

But so much is at stake in Detroit's primary today. Voters will narrow the field in races for Mayor and City Council.

They'll be choosing a district-based council for the first time in nearly 100 years. These leaders will be working closely with emergency manager Kevyn Orr during the city's historic bankruptcy, and they will be running the show after Orr leaves.

So the need for competent, passionate elected officials is greater than ever, and yet, turnout at the polls in Detroit is expected to be in the 15-17% range.

We wanted to talk about what's behind that chronically low number. Could it be something besides disaffected, uninvolved residents?

Nancy Derringer, a writer for Bridge Magazine, and Karen Dumas, the former chief of communications for Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and a communications/PR strategist, joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Federal health data show that where you live may determine whether you will get cancer and what type.

On today’s show, we explored Michigan's cancer profile.

And, we traveled to the Headlands International Dark Sky Park near Mackinac City, one of only 10 designated sky parks in the entire world.

Also, we spoke with Rick Pluta about the write-in candidates in Detroit’s primary election.

First on the show, it's not uncommon for voter turnout to be lower on primary Election Days than on the big general Election Days in November, but so much is at stake in Detroit's primary today.

Voters will narrow the field in races for Mayor and City Council.

They'll be choosing a district-based council for the first time in nearly 100 years. These leaders will be working closely with emergency manager Kevyn Orr during the city's historic bankruptcy, and they will be running the show after Orr leaves.

So the need for competent, passionate elected officials is greater than ever, and yet, turnout at the polls in Detroit is expected to be in the 15-17% range.

We wanted to talk about what's behind that chronically low number. Could it be something besides disaffected, uninvolved residents?

Nancy Derringer, a writer for Bridge Magazine, and Karen Dumas, the former chief of communications for Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and a communications/PR strategist, joined us today.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A Presidential election always brings more registered voters to the polls than 'off-year' elections.

But as the voter numbers begin to be scrutinized, we see that overall turnout was down in this Presidential election.

While they're still "unofficial numbers," the Michigan Secretary of State said the turnout for the 2012 Presidential election was lower than the past two.

Here are the numbers they sent me:

  • 2012: Almost 4.8 million voters; 64 percent
  • 2008: 5 million voters; 67 percent
  • 2004: Almost 4.9 million voters; 68 percent

In late October, the Washington Post posted that lower turnout was expected across the country:

With less than a week to go in the 2012 election, voters are less enthusiastic about casting ballots than they were in either of the last two presidential elections, according to a new Gallup poll.

The numbers suggest that there could well be a dropoff in voter turnout on Election Day.

If you look more closely at the counties in Michigan, you see a similar picture. Turnout was down.

Ruth Johnson has faced criticism over the citizenship question on Michigan ballots this year.
user jdurham / MorgueFile.com

Detroit election officials are estimating a 10 to 15 percent turnout in next week's statewide primary, comparable to the primary election turnout of 14 percent four years ago, reports the Associated Press.

Director of Elections Daniel Baxter said in a news conference today that the city expects to have up to 33,000 absentee votes counted by election night. That's about 6 percent of the city's 553,165 voters.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan election officials say 16 percent of the state's registered voters cast ballots in this week's presidential primary election.

The secretary of state's office said Thursday 1.2 million of the state's nearly 7.3 million registered voters participated.

About 21 percent of the state's registered voters took part in Michigan's 2008 presidential primary, when Republicans had a contested race but Hillary Rodham Clinton was the only major Democratic candidate on the ballot.

Luce County had the highest voter turnout on Tuesday with 27.5 percent of registered voters casting ballots. Baraga County was second with 27.25 percent. Ottawa County came in third with 25.5 percent voting.

Mitt Romney won the popular vote in his home state, but will split Michigan's 30 convention delegates with second-place finisher Rick Santorum.

Cle0patra / Flickr

Local elections are underway across the state today. Among other votes in Michigan, two mayors of large cities will be elected, Detroiters will vote on changes to their city charter, and a state representative is up for recall. But, despite the fact that there are important issues on today's ballots, very few voters will actually make it to the polls.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Jack Lessenberry, Michigan Radio's Political Analyst, about why voter turnout is historically low in local elections that are held in so-called "off-years."

Lars Plougmann / Creative Commons

Here are some numbers for you from the Michigan Secretary of State's office.

  • 95.5% - percent of the voting age population in Michigan registered to vote
  • 7.28 million people registered - a record for a Michigan gubernatorial election
  • 7.40 million people - the highest number of registered voters Michigan has ever seen (2008 presidential election)

But just because people are registered to vote doesn't mean they will.