Traverse City News and Events

Record Turnout Leaves Many Election Races Still Undecided

By Beth Milligan | Nov. 4, 2020

NOTE: This story was posted at 3am on Wed., Nov. 4.

Record voter turnout – both across the country and in northern Michigan, where many polling stations saw lengthy lines Tuesday – left several races too close to call on Election Night, including the presidency. Nearly 3.3 million absentee ballots combined with an estimated 2 to 2.5 million in-person votes cast in Michigan, with Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson saying she expected that the state's results could be fully tabulated by Wednesday night. The Ticker has a look at results and projections in key local and state races as of press time early Wednesday morning.

Congressional/State Races
With just over 60 percent of the vote counted in Michigan, Republican candidates seemed to be leading in several key races early Wednesday – but absentee ballots still to be tallied in areas like Detroit could change the final outcome. Republican challenger John James held a double-digit lead over Democratic incumbent U.S. Senator Gary Peters, with Peters telling supporters just before 11pm that the campaign was calling it a night and waiting on official results Peters expected to come sometime Wednesday due to the “massive amount of absentee ballots” cast in Michigan.

In District 1 of the U.S. House, Republican Jack Bergman was leading Democratic challenger Dana Ferguson by roughly a two-to-one margin with nearly 70 percent of precincts reporting. In state House races, Republican John Roth had nearly 57 percent of the vote to Democrat Dan O'Neil's 41 percent with more than 89 percent of precincts reporting in the 104th District. The two candidates are squaring off to take over the seat vacated by Rep. Larry Inman, who is term-limited. Rep. Jack O’Malley appeared to be on track to win another term in the 101st District with 70 percent of precincts reporting, earning roughly 59 percent of the vote to Democrat Beth McGill-Rizer's 41 percent.

Michigan voters appeared to overwhelmingly support two statewide proposals that were on the ballot this year. Both Proposal 1, which changes how park revenues can be spent in Michigan, and Proposal 2, which requires a search warrant to access a person's electronic data, were both passing with more than 80 percent approval by voters as of press time.

Grand Traverse County
Voter support for ballot proposals carried over to Grand Traverse County, where a 911 surcharge increase and a millage renewal for the Grand Traverse County Road Commission were both ahead by thousands of votes with 35 of 36 precincts reporting. A joint millage request between the City of Traverse City and the Charter Township of Garfield Recreational Authority to support parks funding for the Historic Barns Park, Hickory Meadows, and West Bay Waterfront was also approved by voters with all precincts reporting. A Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) operating millage passed, as did fire and ambulance millages in Fife Lake and Grant townships and a fire protection services millage in Paradise Township.

With 35 of 36 precincts reporting, Sheriff Tom Bensley was on track to handily defeat challenger Greg Hall for another term in office by a 60-40 percent margin. The Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners will remain a Republican-majority board, with Chair Rob Hentschel, Vice Chair Ron Clous, and Commissioner Brad Jewett earning another term and Republican newcomers Penny Morris and Darryl V. Nelson joining the board. Democrat incumbents Bryce Hundley and Betsy Coffia were also reelected to the commission.

Three new faces will appear on the Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) school board after the challengers swept out incumbents. Josey Ballenger, Flournoy Humphreys, and Scott Newman-Bale were the top three vote-getters, respectively, in the race for three open TCAPS board seats. The result means current TCAPS board members Jane Klegman, Jeff Leonhardt, and Benjamin McGuire will be off the board effective January 1. In the Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) board of trustees race, Rachel Johnson, Laura Oblinger, and Ken Warner were the top three vote-getters with almost all precincts reporting – despite a last-minute controversy involving Oblinger and an underage drinking party at her home over the weekend.

Leelanau County
Two new faces are set to join the Leelanau County Commission – though the tightness of one race is likely to trigger a recount. Republican Rick Robbins received 1,183 votes in District 1 to Democrat George Bowers' 1,181 votes – a difference of just two votes. Republicans Deb Rushton (District 2), William Bunek (District 3), and Melinda Lautner (District 7) won commission seats by more comfortable margins, as did Democrats Ty Wessel (District 4), Patricia Soutas-Little (District 5), and Gwenne Allgaier (District 6). Allgaier was the other newcomer elected to the board along with Robbins; both ran in districts where the current incumbents did not seek reelection.

In other notable county election news, voters in Northport defeated a proposal that would have prohibited recreational marijuana businesses in the village. A citizen group called Citizens Against Weed Shops tried to overturn a village ordinance that allows recreational marijuana businesses after developer Daniel Caudill was approved by the township planning commission to open a dispensary on Mill Street. Voters' decision to uphold the ordinance paves the way for Caudill's project to move forward.

Pictured: Voting lines in Peninsula Township on Election Day

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