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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.