Trends in Absentee Voting Across Oakland County Communities from 2018 to 2022
(Kurt Metzger, Aug. 31, 2022)
I voted in my first Presidential Election in 1968, while a college student in Cincinnati. While my candidate, Hubert Humphrey, did not win (Lyndon Johnson chose not to run), and Ohio went for Nixon, I knew that voting was a civic responsibility I would take seriously for the rest of my life. I can say that 54 years later, I have never missed a primary or general election. I have been an Oakland County voter since 1975 – 12 years in Ferndale and the last 35 in Pleasant Ridge. In all those years, up until 2000, I made sure to vote in person.
Of course, I enjoyed getting the ‘I Voted’ sticker, but, more importantly, I enjoyed the opportunity to see and talk with fellow residents while drinking coffee and eating the Costco cookies that PR made available.
While I could have voted Absentee when I reached the age of 60 (persons under 60 had to provide a reason they could not vote in person – not in town on Election Day, having a physical disability, religious objections, working as a precinct inspector, or those in jail awaiting trial), I continued to show up at the polls.
In 2018, Michigan voters approved a wide-ranging constitutional amendment that allows people to register and vote on the day on an election, request absentee ballots without having to give a reason and cast straight-ticket ballots. Little did we know at the time that this amendment would be of great use in 2020 when we were a little more than 6 months into the COVID pandemic of 2020. For the first time in my voting career I was relieved to be able request an absentee ballot, and have continued to do so through the just completed August Primary.
While COVID has become less of an issue in August 2022, the convenience and safety of absentee voting has continued to keep the numbers high. In order to judge the increase of absentee voting in Oakland County, I decided to compare the results of the just completed primary with those of the last Midterm Primary held in August of 2018.
The chart below provides a County Overview. I have used votes cast for Gubernatorial candidates as the basis for absentee share calculations. Overall, the share of absentee votes rose from 29.4 percent in 2018 to 53.7 percent in 2022. While Democratic voters (primary elections require one select a party) exhibited the largest increase (25.8 to 60.0 percent), Republicans also increased their share from 34.4 to 45.0 percent.
The next question to be answered is how absentee voting fared across the county. Where do we see the highest and lowest absentee rates in 2022, and how do these compare with their rates in 2018. ***Before we begin, let me state that the communities of Clarkston, Keego Harbor, Lake Angelus, Orchard Lake and Novi township did not tabulate absentee ballots in either 2018 or 2022. In addition, the townships of Holly, Royal Oak and Southfield, and the cities of South Lyon, Walled Lake and Wixom did not tabulate absentee ballots in 2018, but did in 2022.
Figure 1 ranks Oakland County townships on their share of absentee ballots received. As you can see, Southfield township has the lowest rate at 38.7 percent, while Bloomfield township had the highest rate of 59.0 percent. Twelve of the county’s 20 townships surpassed the 50 percent mark. All that had data for both years demonstrated increases in absentee voting in 2022. The largest increase belongs to Lyon township, increasing from 17.7 to 58.6 percent. Bloomfield, the overall winner, was next, going from 28.0 to 59.0 percent. The smallest absentee increases were seen in the two townships – Independence and Oxford (7.5 and 11.5 percentage points, respectively) – that had the highest shares in 2018.
Figure 2 ranks Oakland County cities on their share of absentee ballots received. Here the range is even greater than it was for townships, with Sylvan Lake on the low end at 38.9 percent and Northville at the top with 64.8 percent. Three other cities joined Northville with rates greater than 60 percent – Farmington Hills, Novi and Rochester Hills. Twelve of the 26 cities that reported absentee votes in 2022 surpassed the 50 percent mark. Once again, all cities with two years’ worth of data experienced increases in absentee voting. As it was with townships, the highest ranked city in 2022 – Novi, experienced the largest increase, going from 12.9 to 64.3 percent. The smallest increases were seen in Pleasant Ridge and Sylvan Lake, neither of which was at the top in 2018. I have to believe that, since ‘I Voted’ stickers are now included with your Absentee Ballot, it must be the coffee and cookies that continue to draw our residents into the community center to vote.
As we approach the November 2022 General Election, we can anticipate more of the disinformation around absentee voting that we heard in 2020 and ever since. It is clear from these results, as well as those of the 2020 election, that Oakland County voters have embraced the concept of absentee voting (Republicans still less than Democrats) and that we can expect at least half of this fall’s vote total to be accounted for by absentee.
Note: The Oakland County Clerk’s Office assisted 19 communities with their absentee ballot counting, and in those cases ballots received the day of election were counted as election day votes, not absentee. Those communities are: Berkley, Birmingham, Clawson, Farmington, Ferndale, Huntington Woods, Lathrup Village, Oak Park. Pleasant Ridge, Pontiac, Royal Oak, Southfield, South Lyon, Wixom, and the townships of Holly, Orion, Royal Oak, Southfield and west Bloomfield.
For more stories about voter turnout and other interesting numbers, visit the Data-Based Stories Archives on Oakland County Times. Thanks to Data Expert Kurt Metzger for this work!
Thank you to Pontiac Community Foundation for supporting our nonpartisan election coverage and candidate interview series. Visit their website at https://pontiaccommunityfoundation.org/.
View our 2022 candidate interviews HERE.
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