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Strong voter turnout in Ottawa County

Alex Doty • Mar 10, 2016 at 8:00 AM

Voters came out in a big way in Ottawa County for Tuesday’s presidential primary election. 

Results from the Ottawa County Clerk’s Office show voter turnout was at almost 43 percent, or 83,379 ballots cast. 

“For the last presidential primary, we had 24.8 percent turnout, and that was high for a presidential primary,” County Elections Coordinator Steve Daitch said of the 2012 contest.

In 2008, what Daitch called a “record year” for the presidential primary, voter turnout was 26.8 percent. 

Ottawa County’s turnout on Tuesday followed a trend seen across the state. According to The Associated Press, about 2.5 million people — a third of registered Michigan voters — cast ballots on Tuesday. That was the most for a Michigan presidential primary in 44 years, when 1.9 million participated.

The AP notes that the turnout in 1972, though, was higher as a percentage of registered voters — 47 percent.

According to The AP, 2016 was the first time that both parties had a meaningful primary in the same year since 1992.

While the primary numbers are greater than the norm, county officials say they aren’t close to the turnout for a November presidential election. During the 2008 presidential election, nearly 78 percent of registered voters cast ballots. In November 2012, almost 72 percent headed to the polls.

“This November, I wouldn’t be surprised if we have 65-70 percent,” Daitch said.

Transit millage impresses

Grand Haven Township officials say support for the transportation millage renewal received more voter support, percentage-wise, than when it was initially approved five years ago.

Township voters renewed the millage on Tuesday, with 72 percent in support. In comparison, the initial approval in May 2011 garnered support from a little less than 59 percent.

Voter turnout in Grand Haven Township on Tuesday was 5,045, compared to 1,799 in May 2011. The 2011 millage was also approved during a non-presidential primary election ballot.

Township Manager Bill Cargo said there are several possibilities that could account for a larger margin of approval.

“The economy is stronger in 2016 than it was in 2011, (and) people vote with their ’wallets,’” he said. “A stronger economy improves the possibility for voters to approve a tax — especially since this was a renewal and not a new tax.”

Cargo also noted that Harbor Transit is providing an essential service, and the service has continued to see an increase in use. About 54,780 rides originated in the township last year, compared to 31,928 in 2012.

The final factor, Cargo noted, could be that the level of trust toward the township remains relatively high.

“People don’t want to pay taxes,” he said. “But, if residents think their tax dollars are being spent appropriately, they are more likely to support a local tax.”

Presidential primary winners

Although Donald Trump won the GOP primary in Michigan, he came in third in Ottawa County, with about 19 percent of the 60,043 Republican votes cast. Ted Cruz received the most votes of Republican candidates, capturing almost 40 percent in the county.

Bernie Sanders, who won the state’s Democrat Party primary by about a 2 percent margin, easily topped Hillary Clinton in Ottawa County. Sanders captured just over 64 percent of the 22,327 Democrat primary votes in the county, and Clinton received about 34 percent. 

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