November voter turnout is expected to be higher than previous years.
Projections show general election voter turnout in Hillsdale County may be the largest in recent history following historic voter turnout in the August primaries.
According to the County Clerk’s Office, August saw a 36% voter turnout in the Aug. 4 primaries, compared to the usual voter turnout in the county, which averages around 15%. The August primaries had the most absentee ballots in county history.
Data from past elections shows that the Republican Party turnout increased this cycle, while Democrat turnout remained constant. In the most competitive races the primaries saw a total of 9,927 votes cast in the Republican primary, and 1,632 votes in the Democrat primary.
Based on these results, Hillsdale County and city authorities estimate there will be a larger-than-usual general election turnout, especially as many residents request absentee ballots amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In August, the county sent out 6,086 absentee ballots. Of those,4,981 have been returned so far. Normally, absentee ballots only account for about 1,000 votes in Hillsdale.
“This was our largest absentee ballot request,” Jonesville City Clerk Cydney Means said. “In the presidential election, I would expect that number to be even higher.”
Means said this was the highest turnout for a primary election since Jonesville became a city in 2014. Jonesville expects November turnout to be greater than 800 votes.
As voter turnout increases in rural and small towns, some experts see an inverse trend in major cities. John Grant, dean of politics at Hillsdale College, said he expects that uncertainty in the election environment could lead to a depressed urban vote. Grant commented that there would be more absentee ballots in circulation which may lead many to question the legitimacy of the election.
Due to differences among state regulation of absentee ballots, Grant said he believes it is likely electors will not know who will win the presidential election until later in November.
Larger national and local turnout will be dictated by the current national climate, Grant explained. Riots, the coronavirus-related executive orders, and general instability will all directly affect the final voter turnout.
As in the August primaries, each ward’s turnout is a little different. Cydney Means said Jonesville saw “an increase in turnout mostly from voters on the Republican side.” The Hillsdale County Clerk’s Office also saw an increase in turnout among Republicans countywide.
Grant said he believes this is a sign that the county is speaking out against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders.
“Voters are responding to the governor’s orders, racial tensions, and riots in major cities across the United States,” Grant said.
Grant added that nationwide trends among rural counties may very well parallel Hillsdale’s demographic voter shift as well.