CEDAR — Xavier McKillip and his father Chris McKillip walked into the Solon Township Hall in Cedar at about 11 a.m. to cast their ballots.
For 18-year-old Xavier, voting required an extra step — registering. Same day registration has been in place in Michigan since 2018 and Xavier took advantage of the law.
“Every vote counts,” said Xavier, who has been busy with work and his Northwestern Michigan College classes, where he is studying to be an electrical engineer. “Voting is the one time that dignifies that you’re 18, that you’re an adult, so I feel like it’s my duty.”
The McKillips missed the long lines that started at about 6:30 a.m., said Clerk Shirley Mikowski, who started even earlier than that and was just sitting down for her first break of the day. More than 300 people had already voted, or about 70 per hour, she said.
“We’ve been busy since 6 a.m. this morning,” Mikowski said. “It has been nonstop. That is really good.”
It’s was a story that played out across the Grand Traverse region — and the country — for those who weren’t among the nearly 100 million Americans who voted early or via absentee ballots. Voters lined up in queues that stretched out doors and in some cases wrapped around parking lots.
“The polling places are extremely busy,” said Bonnie Scheele, Grand Traverse County Clerk.
Scheele said adding to the lines are people who are surrendering their absentee ballots and voting in person. She said there has been a lot of false information out there regarding the counting of absentee ballots.
Those absentee ballots, more than 3.3 million statewide, contributed to record voter turnout of more than 5 million, according to Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.
Election officials said 701 voters cast their ballots in person by 10 a.m. in East Bay Township, where lines spilled out the doors for both precincts and wound around the edge of the parking lot.
Democratic volunteer Carol Shuckra stood more than 100 feet away along Three Mile Road and held a campaign sign for state representative candidate Dan O’Neil in view of passing motorists. Not far away, Don Emerson waved a large flag for the national Biden/Harris ticket, while an even larger campaign sign leaned against his hip.
He said he’s not a party volunteer, simply an invested citizen.
“I’m just doing what my conscious told me to do,” Emerson said. “I figured I’d get a lot more attention today along Three Mile than on North Arbutus Lake Road.”
Other candidate supporters with flags and signs drew the attention of law enforcement.
Michigan State Police Trooper David Duncan pulled up to Kalkaska Township Hall around 12:45 p.m. Tuesday and stepped out of his cruiser with tape measure in hand.
“We’re just going around checking polling places,” Duncan said. “We got a complaint they were too close,” he said, nodding to a group of Trump supports in MAGA hats with campaign flags blowing in the breeze.
And were they too close?
“Nope,” the trooper said after measuring the distance.
Among the crowd of Trump supporters was Jeff Sieting, a well-known local personality. He is the former village president ousted from office more than two years ago in a recall election after he incensed village residents with racially charged social media activity.
Sieting sat in a lawn chair, firearm on his hip, MAGA hat on his head and a box of doughnuts at his feet. He was set up for the day, he laughed.
Sieting predicted the president would be re-elected Tuesday.
“I think so. I think there’s a lot of people sitting back and watching,” he said.
The trooper confirmed Sieting wasn’t breaking any law with his holstered gun, nor his group’s Trump flag hoisted into the sky. Open carry is allowed and the campaign materials are more than 100 feet from the polling place entrance, he said.
In Benzie County there were a few issues with people not wearing masks while voting and a few people wearing the gear of their specific candidate, said Sheriff Ted Schendel.
Schendel had anticipated that there may be problems with people open carrying at the polls after it was banned by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. But the ban was blocked prior to the election by a Court of Claims judge and upheld by a three-judge appeals panel.
Antrim County Sheriff Dan Bean also reported there were no problems at the polls.
In Antrim County’s Kearney Township, officials confirmed a problem with the ballot scanning machine halted voting for about a half-hour.
“It stopped recording correctly one of the types of ballots we have — the (Bellaire) village ballot,” said Sally Petrie, township clerk.
She said the county clerk rushed over a replacement part for the machine which fixed the problem.
Most voters waited to cast their ballots, Petrie said, though a couple may have left with plans to return later.
Officials said 209 people had voted in person by 11 a.m., along with 605 absentee ballots returned. That’s nearly twice the number of absentee voters in the August primary, records show.
About 90 percent of the AV ballots requested in Solon Township were returned, with more continuing to be dropped off through the day, Mikowski said. The number represents about 40 percent of the township’s 1,440 or so registered voters, she said.
Mikowski said she expected to have everything counted by 9 p.m., including those cast by the McKillips.
Chris McKillip said it was huge to be able to vote with his son for the first time.
“This is how we should be bringing up our kids,” he said. “Voting is important, being heard.”