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Grand Traverse County voters avoid lines, head to polls for Michigan primary — GOP watches closely

Max Johnston
A polling place in Green Lake Township

Voters across the state went to the polls Tuesday for the Michigan Primary. Overall voting in Grand Traverse County seemed to go smoothly as there weren’t any lines at several polling places or the city clerk’s office.
“That was pretty simple, we didn't even have a line today," Traverse City voter Sunny Miller said. "I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing."

One factor that could have cut down on lines is absentee ballots. This is the first election in Michigan since a 2018 state law made it easier to get them.

Traverse City Clerk Ben Marentette says his office saw a 200 percent increase in absentee voting from the 2016 presidential primary. Marentette expects that trend to continue into the general election in November.

“My hope is that people don't just switch their voting method but this has an overall increase in voter turnout," Marentette said.

Democrats may have been getting all the headlines Tuesday, but plenty of Republicans were voting too.

Credit Max Johnston
The Grand Traverse County GOP Primary watch party in Traverse City.

The Grand Traverse County GOP held a primary watch party in Traverse City Tuesday night. Everyone ate pizza, had soft drinks and watched the returns.

Even though U.S. President Donald Trump is the presumptive republican nominee, almost everyone at the watch party turned out to vote for him during the primary.

John Roth, a republican running for northern Michigan’s 104th district in the state house, says republicans took part in the Michigan primary to send a message.

“This is to get everybody motivated, get them ready to go, it is campaign season and if you’re not ready by now you’re lagging behind,” Roth said.

Around 9 p.m., Fox News called Michigan for Joe Biden. Grand Traverse County GOP chairman Hader Kazim watched closely, but isn't worried. He thinks Trump will beat anyone the Democrats put up against him in November.

“Because really from a quality standpoint, neither (democratic candidate) is better than the other,” Kazim said.

Time will tell who voters in Grand Traverse County support in November, but the area’s demographics are changing, according to Political Consultant Mark Grebner. He says Traverse City and other dense pockets of northern Michigan are becoming more blue, but most of the region still strongly favors republicans.

“But inland in the places that you don’t have tourists, is just as republican as ever and maybe is becoming more so,” Grebner said.

Max came to IPR in 2017 as an environmental intern. In 2018, he returned to the station as a reporter and quickly took on leadership roles as Interim News Director and eventually Assignment Editor. Before joining IPR, Max worked as a news director and reporter at Michigan State University's student radio station WDBM. In 2018, he reported on a Title IX dispute with MSU in his story "Prompt, Thorough and Impartial." His work has also been heard on Michigan Radio, WDBM and WKAR in East Lansing and NPR.