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What Lansing's Election Turnout Could Reveal About Changing Voting Habits

lansing election drop box
Sarah Lehr
A ballot drop box appears outside the Foster Community Center in Lansing on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.

Thousands of people voted Tuesday in Lansing’s election, but most did not go to the polls.

That shift toward voting absentee may foretell a long-term trend.

Less than 15% of Lansing's 86,863 registered voters cast ballots in the primary race for Lansing mayor. The low turnout is typical for a local election in August.

But a whopping 76% of the people who did vote in that race cast absentee ballots.

During the primary four years ago, only 44% of votes for Lansing mayor were absentee.

Since then, Michigan has expanded voting options by allowing people to cast absentee ballots without giving a specific reason for doing so.

During the coronavirus outbreak, Michiganders may feel safer voting from home instead of at a crowded polling place. But Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope believes the popularity of absentee voting will persist even once the pandemic is over.

He says the process is convenient; Voters can take absentee ballots home and take their time with research before returning the ballots via mail, drop box or at a city clerk's office.

“Sometimes people who are voting in person get to the polling place, and there may be more candidates than they were even aware of for a specific office," Swope said. "But if they have any questions about any of the other candidates, they have no opportunity to get information."

Lansing voters can sign up to be added to a permanent absentee voter list and receive an absentee ballot application by mail before every election.

Sarah Lehr is a politics and civics reporter for WKAR News.
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