Michigan Voters Head to Polls for Primaries

Nathan Worcester
By Nathan Worcester
February 27, 20242024 Elections
Michigan voters headed to polls for the Democratic and Republican primaries on Feb. 27. People voting in the Republican primary say they care about the economy and illegal immigration, while Arab-Americans voting in the Democratic primary say they are unhappy with President Joe Biden's stance on the Israel–Hamas war.

SOUTHGATE/GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—Michigan voters are heading to polls for the Republican and Democratic presidential primaries Tuesday.

The primary comes after early voting, which lasted from Feb. 17 until Feb. 25. Early voting is now enshrined in Michigan’s constitution thanks to Proposal 2, a ballot measure that passed during the 2022 general election.

Michigan’s presidential primary is an open one per the National Conference of State Legislatures. Voters need not be registered with a specific party to get that party’s ballot.

On Feb. 27, polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

Even as incumbent President Joe Biden competes in the Democratic presidential primary, more eyes are trained on the Republican presidential contest in the state.

Although that race is more competitive than its Democratic counterpart, it is still expected to end with another big win for former President Donald Trump, after a streak of support put him well ahead of former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in delegates, including in her home state Feb. 24 primary. Polling also shows President Trump with a commanding lead in Michigan.

Sandy Sikorski, an early voter for President Trump who spoke with The Epoch Times in Southgate in Michigan’s Wayne County, had a simple message for Ms. Haley.

“Go back home,” she said. Her husband, Douglas, made a goodbye gesture to drive the point home.

The national press has been particularly interested in the dueling Republican caucuses on March 2 that will follow the Republican primary, threatening the perception of Republican unity at a point when the party has begun to consolidate around President Trump as a likely presumptive nominee.

Meanwhile, tension over the Israel-Hamas war has led to a campaign from the left wing of the Democratic Party that could prove a challenge to President Biden.

President Joe Biden speaks to governors from across the country during an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington on Feb. 23, 2024. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

GOP’s Dueling Conventions, Democrats’ Protest Vote

More of Michigan’s 55 delegates to the Republican National Convention (RNC) will be awarded through the caucus process than through the primary vote—39 as opposed to just 16.

State Republicans’ use of caucusing is downstream of a 2023 vote by the state’s Democrat-dominated Legislature that rescheduled the state’s primary in line with Democratic National Committee (DNC) priorities.

That conflicted with the RNC’s calendar, leading to objections from Michigan state legislators at the time, who worried that the scheduling would disempower voters by stripping them of delegates.

“If this becomes law, no Republican candidate for president is going to come to Michigan to campaign,” Republican State Rep. Andy Beeler predicted at the time.

Ms. Haley campaigned in Troy, Michigan, on Feb. 25 and Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Feb. 26. President Trump was in the state for a rally in Waterford Township on Feb. 17.

(Left) Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley in Kiawah Island, S.C., on Feb. 24, 2024. (Right) Former President Donald Trump at the Black Conservative Federation Gala in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 23, 2024. (Justin Sullivan, Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

President Biden visited Michigan in early February with a view to the general election. The United States’ backing for Israel in its war with Hamas has undermined the president’s relations with Democratic and other leaders of Arab and Muslim communities, key blocs in what could prove to be a crucial battleground state. He faced protests over U.S. support of the war during the trip.

Some ceasefire activists, including the relative of Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), are campaigning for Democratic voters to vote “uncommitted” over President Biden in the Democratic presidential primary, as a protest against the administration’s Gaza policy.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, predicted that the number of protest votes against President Biden will be “sizable.”

The Republican plan to hold a caucus at their March 2 convention marks a compromise over its calendar. The lack of such a conflict is why Democrats in the state aren’t staging their own caucus. All 139 delegates to the Democratic National Convention will be awarded based on the results of that primary.

But, confusingly, the official state convention in Grand Rapids will be competing with a convention in Detroit.

Former Michigan GOP Chairwoman has maintained that she still leads the party even after an RNC vote affirmed that former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the man endorsed by President Trump, is in charge.

She contends that an earlier Jan. 6 vote that initially stripped her of her title was illegal and not organized under official auspices.

A lawsuit by Kristina Karamo’s opponents to enforce her removal is ongoing.

Early Voters Share Thoughts

“This is the first statewide election in Michigan’s history in which voters have had the option to cast a ballot in person at an early voting site,” the Michigan Department of State website notes.

On the afternoon of Feb. 25, citizens weren’t exactly storming the Southgate Senior Center to take advantage of their last chance for early voting before Feb. 27.

Southgate City Clerk Jan Ferencz told The Epoch Times there had been 178 early voters at the site thus far.

Ms. Ferencz said that while she was at first opposed to the idea of early voting, she is now starting to appreciate it.

“I think it’s going to catch on, I really do,” she said.

The few early voters who showed up included members of the Kessler family, three of whom planned to assist the vote as precinct workers on Feb. 27. Like the other election workers who spoke with The Epoch Times in Southgate, they’ll get what Scott Kessler, the family father, described as “a stipend.”

He and his son Jude, another election worker, told The Epoch Times they voted in the Democratic primary. While Jude declined to share his choice, Scott explained that he chose President Biden.

“I believe he’s a much better candidate than other choices,” he said.

He agreed that some Democratic-leaning Michiganders could end up participating in the Republican primary as spoilers. His son, Jude, defended the openness of Michigan’s presidential primary.

“I just don’t think the system should cater to the two parties, because I think we should have a multi-party system or no parties at all, ideally,” he told The Epoch Times.

Entrenched, team-like parties are “bad for democracy,” Scott added.

“I played a political game with my vote just now. I took a Republican ballot and voted for the least likely Republican candidate to try to keep Donald Trump off the ballot,” Jane Kessler, Scott’s wife and another future election worker, told The Epoch Times.

In her view, that was Vivek Ramaswamy, who suspended his campaign after losing in the Iowa Republican caucus and is now campaigning for President Trump.

Mr. and Ms. Sikorski, the early voters for President Trump at Southgate, were more concerned about crossover voting in the primaries.

“It’s concerning for sure,” Mr. Sikorski said.

Haley Rallies Then Heads to Minnesota

Ms. Haley’s rallies in Michigan come amid a whirlwind schedule following her South Carolina defeat.

Her plans after that contest encompass ten private fundraising events as well as public rallies.

Ms. Haley’s Grand Rapids stop was at the Amway Grand Plaza, the same hotel where the state GOP will hold its official convention March 2. That was followed by a rally in Minnesota. On Feb. 27, the day of Michigan’s primary, she is scheduled to speak in Colorado. An event in Utah follows the day after.

One attendee of her Grand Rapids speech, economics instructor Ron Cipcic, was under no illusions about the likely outcome of the upcoming Republican presidential primary.

“The probability is low that Nikki’s going to be elected,” he told The Epoch Times while standing beside his wife, Kim.

“From a conscience stance, we need to vote our conscience, and so, my wife Kim and I did vote,” he said.

Moses Milan was holding a sign for Ms. Haley when he spoke with The Epoch Times. But he isn’t a supporter of Ms. Haley—“not at all.”

“They handed this to me. I didn’t really have a choice,” he told The Epoch Times.

Mr. Milan works on political campaigns for Turning Point USA’s Campus Victory Project.

After clarifying that he was speaking for himself and not on behalf of Turning Point, he said, “Trump is not just running against the Democrats. He’s running against the uniparty in Washington, who are backing Nikki Haley.”

“They try to keep real estate in both parties, and Nikki Haley is real estate within the Republican Party. Is she going to win? Not likely. But I sense there’s a need to at least keep an avenue open so that it’s not completely up in the air should something happen to Trump,” he said of the challenges President Trump is facing from actors within the DOJ.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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