Michigan: balmy weather and fervent ideals drive voters to the polls

The number of votes cast is expected to exceed the state record of five million set in 2008

People wait in line to vote in the 2020 general election at Life Stream Church on November 3, 2020 in Allendale, Michigan.   Americans were voting on Tuesday under the shadow of a surging coronavirus pandemic to decide whether to reelect Republican Donald Trump, one of the most polarizing presidents in US history, or send Democrat Joe Biden to the White House. / AFP / JEFF KOWALSKY

The sun is shining and wisps of clouds drift across a bright blue sky above Detroit.

Weather at this time of year can be unpredictable in Michigan and the balmy high of 14°C could lead more people to vote than ever before in the crucial battleground state.

“It’s supposed to be nice so maybe that could be a stimulus for votes,” said Daniel Baxter, a special projects co-ordinator with Michigan’s Electoral Board.

More than 3.1 million absentee ballots have been received. State officials expect at least two million more people to vote in person today.

Shenita M woke up at 5.30am to make sure she was first in line to vote at her local polling station in Detroit city centre.

“I'm just used to voting on election day so it felt weird trying to do it by absentee ballot. I like the feeling of coming in person,” she said.

Numbers indicate that Michigan is set to pass the record turnout of about five million in 2008, when 66 per cent of registered voters cast ballots, while 4.9 million Michiganders voted in 2016.

President Donald Trump turned the state red in 2016 for the first time in decades. But he currently trails Democratic candidate Joe Biden in most major polls.

Mr Trump spent much of his last few days on the campaign trail trying to shore up his support among Michiganders.

He held his last campaign rally in the city of Grand Rapids, where he also held his 2016 campaign finale.

Analysts believe high voter turnout in cities such as Detroit and Flint is favourable to Mr Biden, with many of the cities' black residents hoping for a different outcome than 2016, when several of those communities did not vote.

 

“I’m hoping and praying that doesn't happen again and that is why I am out enforcing my right to vote,” said Rhonda Eccles, a nurse.

She was raised in Detroit and moved back only recently. This was her first time voting in Michigan since she was 18.

“My forefathers fought for me to have this right and there is no way I’m going to forfeit the opportunity," Ms Eccles said.

While Michigan election officials said the vote had thus far been free of any significant incidents, there have been reports of some voter misinformation.

The state's Attorney General, Dana Nassel, said her office received "reports of robocalls going to Flint residents that, due to long lines, they should vote tomorrow".

Ms Nassel warned voters that this was false information and an attempt to suppress their vote.

State officials also told residents to prepare for delays in Michigan's final tallies. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson repeatedly said that votes may not be counted until Friday because of high turnout.

Another factor that could affect the count is Covid-19. Michigan has been hit hard and virus cases are twice as high as they were in April.

The state has hired 30,000 poll workers, with another 2,000 on standby, ready to take over if needed.

Two counties have so far requested extra workers.

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