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Record 2.5 million voted in primary

LANSING (AP) — A record 2.5 million votes were cast in Michigan’s primary, as people took advantage of no-excuse absentee voting amid the coronavirus pandemic, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said Thursday.

The count surpassed the previous record of 2.2 million from 2018, when — unlike Tuesday — there were contested statewide contests for governor and U.S. Senate. Nearly one-third of the state’s voting-age population participated.

About 1.6 million ballots were absentee, returned by mail or at drop boxes — topping the record of 1.3 million from November 2016.

“That key metric of turnout, we are really proud that voters blew it out of the water. Voters really showed up, voted by mail, voted in person and demonstrated that even in the midst of a pandemic, people want to vote,” said Benson, who for the first time ensured that every registered voter was mailed an absentee ballot application for the primary and general elections.

She projected 5 million people will vote in the fall presidential election, which would be the most since 2008. The Democrat again urged the Republican-led Legislature to change the law so clerks can open absentee ballots, flatten them and sort them by precinct the day before Election Day, warning that the results of close races in November likely will not be known until three days later — maybe longer — without legislation.

Results were not in from all 83 counties until Wednesday evening, and Benson said clerks would welcome an extra 12 to 24 hours to prepare the ballots for tabulation.

A Republican-sponsored bill to allow earlier processing of absentee ballots unanimously cleared a Senate panel in February but has not been voted on by the full GOP-led Senate.

“There is no consensus on the bill amongst the caucus,” said Amber McCann, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Clarklake Republican. “We’re still evaluating what, if any, process changes need to be made in anticipation of November.”

Benson also pushed for passage of a bill that would let absentee ballots be counted as long as they are postmarked on or before Election Day and arrive within the two days after the election. They currently must arrive by 8 p.m., when the polls close.

“Our voters’ rights should not be subject to the capacity of the U.S. Postal Service,” she said.

A week before the primary, voters were urged to return their absentee ballot directly to the clerk or to put them in a local drop box to avoid potential postal delays.

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