Photos from Macomb County on Election Day.
Photos from Macomb County on Election Day.

From Macomb to Washtenaw, southeast Michigan voter turnout exploded in 2020. Many of those voters sought a different path for Michigan’s future.

MICHIGAN—The election brought forth a tidal surge of ballots, both before and on Election Day. That tidal surge was so high that the election’s results weren’t able to be known on election night. But what motivated that turnout?

In Detroit, it was a movement of resistance, explained Detroit voter Sandra Hughes-O’Brien. The message of hate she saw from Trump and that she saw resonate with President Donald Trump’s voters made her vote all the more essential. 

“Trump figured this out from the beginning—hate is a powerful motivator,” she told The ‘Gander. 

When campaigning in Detroit the weekend before the election, President Barack Obama and Democratic nominee Joe Biden painted a very different picture, a different option, that helped drive the difference between Trump’s message and Biden’s to inspire Detroiters. 

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To the south, Washtenaw County set voting records, with a near-perfect 97% return rate among requested absentee ballots and their record turnout included almost 750 people who registered to vote on Election Day at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) in Ann Arbor.

Lines were long at the start of the day in Ann Arbor but quickly worked themselves down to manageable numbers as the day progressed. That was thanks, in part, to some preparation on the part of Ann Arbor. 

“I am very happy to report that our presence on the University of Michigan campus for the last 40-plus days allowed students the opportunity to register and vote well in advance of Election Day, at a convenient location and time for them,” Ann Arbor city clerk Jackie Beaudry told MLive. “Thanks to our partnership with UMMA, we did not experience the long waits at city hall in the final days of the election.”

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The sun sets Election Day as Macomb County voters wait to make their voices heard. Photo by Montez Miller.

Lines were a lot longer north of Detroit, in Macomb County. Macomb is a pivot county, which means it voted twice for Obama but voted for Trump in 2016. It’s importance to Michigan’s results in 2020 can’t be overstated.

And a major driver of Macomb County’s turnout is white suburban women like Andrea Geralds. Campaigns fought feverishly over Geralds’ demographic, and they answered in numbers. Geralds thinks they answered for Biden.

“We are going to push this over the edge. So many of us realized what we did wrong in 2016,” she told The ‘Gander. “Women north of Hall Road in Michigan are a force. And we are coming out. This is just the start.”

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Geralds voted for Clinton in 2016, but she sees a lot of buyer’s remorse among her fellow suburban women. She doesn’t think it came at one time, from one place, but rose over the past four years. 

“I think it was years of living with the wrong choice and watching what it did to people,” she explained. 

Sterling Heights, whose Republican mayor has been critical of Trump, is located in Macomb County. And it’s one of the cities that had such great turnout it slowed the counting process.

“Hundreds of thousands of ballots in our largest jurisdictions are still being counted, including Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint, Warren & Sterling Heights. Every vote will count,” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson tweeted Wednesday morning. “No matter how long it takes, Michigan citizens can be certain that their ballots will be counted.”

Ballot counters at Detroit’s TCF Center stay connected into election night to count hundreds of thousands ballots.