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A pile of I Voted stickers are pictured as voters head to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023, at the Ward 1 voting location held at Benton Harbor High School in Benton Harbor, Michigan. (Don Campbell/The Herald-Palladium via AP)

Over 1.8 million Michigan voters, or about 23% of registered voters, submitted a ballot for the presidential primary election on Feb. 27, according to data from the Michigan Department of State.

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump won their respective primary races in Michigan — Biden won 81% of Democratic votes and Trump won 68% of Republican votes.

In a press conference after the polls closed on election night, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson called Tuesday’s election “smooth, secure and successful.”

The presidential primary was Michigan’s first statewide election in which voters had three options for submitting their ballot: in person on Election Day, mail-in absentee ballot, or early in-person voting.

Proposal 2, which a majority of Michigan voters approved on the 2022 midterm election ballot and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law last year, implemented a nine-day early voting period as part of a package of election reforms.

State Sen. Jeremy Moss, a Democrat who represents Southfield and serves as Senate Elections and Ethics Committee chair, sponsored the legislation requiring nine days of early voting. He testified during a committee hearing last June that the extra option allows people to vote when it’s most convenient for them.

“Voters deserve more choices to vote in person than to attempt to squeeze in the time during a work day on a Tuesday to go to a polling site and to potentially face long lines of other voters trying to do the same,” Moss said.

State data shows that over 78,000 voters had already cast a ballot by the time early voting ended on Feb. 26. The day with the highest turnout for early voting was Feb. 25, with 11,030 voters participating.

In-person early voting sites operate similarly to Election Day polling places: Voters walk in, receive a ballot, fill it out, and enter it into a tabulator machine. 

Local clerks were able either to run an early voting site alone or operate sites together with neighboring municipalities. They could also join countywide voting locations.

According to VoteBeat Michigan, the southeastern Michigan municipalities with higher populations usually worked alone, whereas rural municipalities generally worked with neighboring governments. Since the number of locations varied by county, accessibility could have affected the number of people who were able to submit their ballot before Election Day.

Michael Davis Jr., executive director of Promote the Vote Michigan, said in a statement his organization is continuing to educate the public on the early voting option through advertisements, mail and other outreach.

“The Bureau of Elections and our city, township, and county clerks have worked tirelessly under tight timelines to ensure that Michigan voters can exercise their constitutional right to vote early,” Davis said. “It wasn’t easy, but their steadfast dedication means that voting is that much more accessible for all Michiganders.”

Absentee voting is another popular way Michiganders participated in Tuesday's primary. To handle the flood of envelopes, Proposal 2 also allowed clerks to start running absentee ballots through tabulators for processing eight days before the election. Like ballots submitted during early voting, however, absentee ballots are not counted until Election Day.

More than 1.4 million voters requested an absentee ballot for the primary, and approximately 934,000 were completed and returned as of Feb. 26, according to state data.

The presidential primary marked the beginning of the 2024 election cycle in Michigan and set the stage for another showdown between Biden and Trump in the general election on Nov. 5.

“We in Michigan know that our votes will be impactful, not just in our state, but nationwide. And I believe the votes of Michiganders cast throughout this year, and particularly in November, will define the future of our country,” Secretary Benson said.

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