Even as Michigan prepares for a statewide recount to investigate irregularities and highly unlikely outcomes in its 2016 presidential election vote totals, chief among them may be a number that’s so bizarre it reads like a typo. We all know people who show up to vote for president but then don’t bother to vote in the downticket races, because they don’t know those candidates or they can’t be bothered. But according to Michigan’s supposed 2016 vote totals, more than eighty thousand people in Michigan showed up and voted – but didn’t vote for president.
To give you an idea of just how unlikely this scenario is: Michigan did not hold a race for Governor in this election, because that won’t happen until 2018. Nor did it hold an election for Senator in 2016, because its two sitting Senators were elected in 2012 and 2014 and their six year terms aren’t up yet. And while each district had a House race going on, they receive the least interest; the average American can’t name their own sitting Congressman, let alone pay attention to House races.
In other words, there was nothing on the ballot in Michigan that could have prompted 87,810 people to decide they needed to make the effort to show up and vote, even though they didn’t care enough about the presidential race to bother picking a candidate while they were in the voting booth. And because they would need to have voted in at least one race somewhere on the ballot for their vote to register at all, we’re supposed to believe that these people showed up, cast a vote in some downticket race, and went home.
To be clear, these 87,810 didn’t vote for Gary Johnson, or Jill Stein, or some other candidate, or write in a name for president. They supposedly left the presidential portion of the ballot empty, while skipping down to the obscure races that voters generally don’t care about. To put into perspective how improbable this is: four years ago, when there was in fact a Senate race on the Michigan ballot, giving people at least somewhat more of a reason to show up and vote in a downticket race even if they were determined to not vote for president at all, just 49,840 people voted in the state while leaving the presidential box empty.
So what really happened here? One explanation is that the ballot’s design may have led to presidential votes not being fully counted, perhaps due to an incomplete filling of the oval. Another is that, as has been exposed in Wisconsin, some precinct workers may have simply been fudging the presidential numbers at a local level. The statewide recount should uncover any and all of the above – and it may help explain why, in a year where nothing of any major consequence was on the ballot in Michigan beyond the presidential contest, so many people supposedly showed up and only voted in one of the obscure races.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report