Lansing sees a record primary election turnout — virtually speaking

Voters chose absentee ballots by a 3 to 1 margin

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WEDNESDAY, Aug. 5 — As Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope predicted, voter turnout in the primary election yesterday set a record.

About 23,000 votes were counted, Swope said, compared to the previous record of 21,000 in the primary election two years ago.

What changed?

One big factor was absentee voting. With a liberalized state election law taking effect, Lansing voted 75% absentee – the reverse of two years ago, said Swope.

Close to 18,000 voted absentee and nearly 5,000 at polling places yesterday, he said.

“It’s a total shift in how elections need to be managed,” Swope said.

How did his office manage?

Results were uploaded to the internet at 1 a.m.

“Not the worst,” Swope said, “definitely not the best.” In the past, it’s been as early as 10 p.m. and as late as 4 a.m.

Swope said he hopes to do as well or better in the Nov. 3 General Election, but it will be costly. He is investing in a second secure tabulator at a cost of $80,000.

Swope said a change to state election law would mitigate the challenge posed by absentee voting. Right now, clerks can’t open ballots till 7 a.m. Election Day.

When should they be able to start opening them?

“Just this morning, I got an email suggesting we start counting votes two weeks before,” he said. “Good suggestion.” But Swope, who is also president of the state clerks’ association, said it falls on deaf ears in the GOP-controlled Legislature.

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