First-time voters contribute to higher primary turnout

Higher-than-average turnout expected across the state


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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The word heard most often when it came to voter turnout during Tuesday’s primary was “steady.”

From Grand Rapids to Walker to Sparta, 24 Hour News 8 didn’t find long lines at polling places, but there was a steady stream of voters even during normally slow times.

Clerks throughout out West Michigan saw this one coming. Grand Rapid’s city clerk predicted a 25 to 28 percent turnout. In Ottawa County, the clerk expects to exceed a 20 percent turnout. In Kalamazoo County, the clerk was hoping for a turnout of between 20 and 25 percent.

Michigan primary voter turnout estimates in West Michigan graphic

The percentages for past primary turnouts have been in the low teens.

“Just looking at the current events in the world or in the United States, it suggests that voters want to speak to the presidential candidates and they’re showing that they have an interest and they’re voting,” Grand Rapids City Clerk Darlene O’Neal said.

She and her counterparts at the county level spent the day making sure precincts had enough ballots.

For the most part, the election seemed to go smoothly, but two Kent County precincts did run out of ballots. People had to wait for more to be delivered to vote.

For Abby Ritter and a number of other voters who spoke to 24 Hour News 8, Tuesday marked the first time they voted in a primary election.

“It was awesome. Made me feel like a real American,” Ritter, 23, said.

Her excitement is reflected in those higher-than-normal turnout predictions for a primary.

“The fear of a couple of the candidates making it through is a concern,” Ritter said.

“There’s a lot of emotions out there. I think people just want a change,” said Sherrie Coke, another first-time primary voter.

While a lot of us complain about the name calling and the rest of the back and forth between candidates, it also appears to have peaked the interest of voters.

“Frankly, a lot of good points are being brought up, and it just seems so important to come out for this,” Coke said.

But will the momentum during today’s turn out carry through to Nov. 8?

“I think it will carry over to the fall because the tensions and the reasons for everything are just that high right now,” said Willie Mustafa, a veteran voter who offered his opinion.

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