Michigan Primary Won’t Be Like Iowa, State Department Says

Michigan runs its primary, as opposed to a political party, but no-reason absentee voting could add an extra burden for clerks.

Days after the Iowa Caucuses there is still no clear winner. Meanwhile, some Michigan voters are worried similar delays could happen during the presidential primary here on March 10.

“Voters can rest assured that we will not have an Iowa situation,” says Jake Rollow, Director of Communications and External Affairs for the Michigan Department of State. “It’s actually sort of an apples to oranges comparison.”

Click on the player above to hear Michigan’s Jake Rollow on securing the state’s primary elections.

Most of the delays in Iowa have been blamed on the use of a new smart phone app to tabulate results. Rollow says Michigan is not planning to debut any new technology like that. But more importantly, as Rollow explains, Michigan’s presidential primary is run very differently from Iowa’s.

“Iowa runs caucuses that are run by the party. We run primary elections that are administered by the clerks across the state,” says Rollow.

“We expect to [see] a much higher percentage of votes coming in by mail.” – Jake Rollow, Michigan Department of State

But local clerks in Michigan are worried that there could be delays this year as a result of a statewide proposition that passed in 2018 which expanded the option of voting absentee to anyone who wants to do so.

“Part of the concern that we’ve heard from clerks is that, with what we expect to [see] a much higher percentage of votes coming in by mail, that that will lead to not having all those counted when the polls close,” says Rollow.

Under current election law, absentee ballots can’t be opened until 7 am on Election Day. Clerks have been asking for more time to process these ballots.

“The work of taking them out of the envelopes and getting them ready to go in the machine, you can save time if you’ve done that prior to Election Day,” explains Rollow.

Legislation has been introduced by former Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson (currently a state senator) that would allow clerks serving more than 40,000 people to ask the state for permission to begin processing absentee ballots the day before the election.

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  • Laura Herberg
    Laura Herberg is a Reporter for 101.9 WDET, telling the stories about people inhabiting the Detroit region and the issues that affect us here.