First-time township clerk candidate Sheila Applebee will cast her ballot today, then act like most voters and put politics on hold until the polls close.
Applebee, of Benzonia Township, has a bridal shower to attend today before she heads to Republican headquarters in the evening to await today's primary results.
Area county and township clerks predict turnout to be about average or a bit below average despite several open county and township seats.
"When I go to meetings for supporters and volunteers for the Republican Party, we are all really involved and excited about the election," Applebee said. "But outside of those meetings I don't get a feel people are as invested."
Voters can cast ballots between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. to choose among either Democratic or Republican candidates, narrow judicial races, and determine the fate of new property tax levies.
Clerks remind voters they need photo identification. They can still cast a ballot if they forget their identification by signing a waiver.
The outcome of today's election will determine many seats in northern Michigan because the Republican primary winner won't face a Democratic or other opponent in November.
Turnout tends to vary by county and townships. Peggy Core, the Bingham Township clerk in Leelanau County, said absentee ballot return numbers ran about par for a primary this year. There are no controversial issues on the ballot for township voters, but Leelanau County has a reputation for strong voter participation.
Core expects about 80 percent of Bingham's registered voters to cast ballots.
Clerks in Peninsula and Acme townships, where almost every board position has one or more candidates, said the return of absentee ballots is average.
Peninsula Township Clerk Monica Hoffman expects voter turnout around 37 percent, which is on the high side for Grand Traverse County.
Absentee ballot numbers were down in Acme, but a late surge of interest has them almost back to average, Clerk Dorothy Dunville said. But voters who came in Saturday to cast absentee ballots appeared to struggle when confronted with choosing individual candidates.
"It just seemed to be people looking at the ballot over and over," Dunville said. "They don't know these people and the signs don't tell you anything."
Overall primary participation in Grand Traverse County has varied between 19 percent and 29 percent of voters over the last decade, said Linda Coburn, county clerk.
"The numbers haven't looked too good the last few years," Coburn said. "Maybe we'll be lucky and get 30 percent, and 35 percent would be really good."
Betsy Coffia, a Democratic candidate for the 104th state House District, said she hopes the first Democratic primary for the seat in two decades will drive more Democrats and young people to the polls.
"We all know youth doesn't come out in primaries and I'm hoping that will change," Coffia said. "I have had really positive signs from young people.
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