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Voting 101: Voting rates historically lower in primaries, for young people, black residents

Grand Rapids' upcoming August primary election may determine the next mayor of the city. With historically lower turnout rates in primaries, this means each vote carries more weight in determining outcomes.
Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids /Steve Depolo

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Grand Rapids voter demographics

Grand Rapids voter demographics /City of Grand Rapids City Clerk

The August 4 Primary Election in Grand Rapids may determine the next mayor of the city. Primary elections typically have a lower voter turnout than general elections, but this also means an individual citizen's vote carries more weight in determining election outcomes.

"Voting rates are historically higher in years with presidential elections than in congressional election years. For example the national voting rate in 2014 -a Congressional election- was 41.9 percent while the national voting rate in 2012 -a Presidential election- was 61.8 percent. For 2014 the voting rate in Michigan (47.1 percent) was higher than the national voting rate of 41.9 percent," according to the United States Census Bureau

The Community Research Institute shows that Kent County follows the same trends locally, with only 49.8 to 58.9 percent coming out to vote in congressional elections, but going up from 63.1 to 74.1 percent of registered voters during presidential voting years.

For example, according to the City Clerk's Office of Grand Rapids, the May 5 Special Election in which citizens voted on a sales tax increase to fund updating Michigan's transportation infastructure had less than a 20 percent voter turnout, with only 25,057 voters showing up at the polls out of 127,834 registered voters. This ammendment was defeated soundly, with 17,046 turning it down.

In last year's general election (in a congressional year) on term limits which amended the city charter, the ordinance passed by only 1,104 votes, with 51 percent of the ballots cast. The final tally of 23,355 for and 22,251 against in a city of 193,000 people is quite a close margin, even though it was 36.56 percent voter turnout.

Recent data shows that people aged 45-64 years old are most likely to vote in Grand Rapids, bringing in 30-39 percent of the vote, while 18-24 years olds are the least like to vote, hovering around 4 percent. Michigan is also in line with other national trends including having more women vote than men in the 2014 election, but not at statistically noticeable rates. Voting and registration rates also tend to increase with education level. 

"Non-Hispanic Blacks living in Michigan had voting rates higher than the national average for their group. Hispanics living in Michigan had voting rates that were not significantly different from the national average for their group. In 2014 in the United States, the voting rate for Non-Hispanic Whites was 45.8 while only 39.7 percent of Blacks and 27.0 percent of Hispanics voted," says the United States Census Bureau.

Local polling stations in Grand Rapids can be found here.  Voting rights, such as not needing a photo ID or being able to bring along children are discussed here.

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