Despite low in-person turnout at the polls for the Aug. 4 primary election, communities such as Eastpointe and Roseville said their absentee voters nearly doubled.

Despite low in-person turnout at the polls for the Aug. 4 primary election, communities such as Eastpointe and Roseville said their absentee voters nearly doubled.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

Residents cast votes in Aug. 4 primary election

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published August 7, 2020


EASTPOINTE/ROSEVILLE — Voters in Eastpointe and Roseville cast their ballots in the Michigan Primary Election Aug. 4 and made their voices heard.

Jennifer Woodward, the precinct chairperson for Precinct 1 in Eastpointe, said that people were still showing up to vote, but they were seeing a sharp increase in absentee ballots this election.

“Turnout for our precinct has been somewhat slow — we’re a smaller precinct — but Precinct 2, which is also here (at Eastpointe High School) has been very busy,” she said. “In comparison to the March election, we appear to have a smaller turnout; however, for the March election we sent out about 3,000 absentee ballots, while for this election we sent out more than 6,000. That has increased the workload on our city clerks, but they are handling it beautifully and it’s why we expected a smaller turnout.”

While polling places had to put extra precautions in place to help curb the spread of COVID-19, those running the polls reported few — if any — incidents.

“We have precautions such as masks, polling staff have been wearing gloves all day, we have masks for people who need them. We also have hand sanitizer at the end of the circuit that people walk inside and single-use pens so everyone who comes in gets their own pen that they take with them. We go around every hour and disinfect and wipe every touch point possible. We have our doors propped open to try and reduce the number of touch points.”

Roseville City Clerk Richard Steenland was checking in on the 13th Precinct polling place in his community between checking the results for the 22nd District State House of Representatives primary, in which he was a candidate, and said Roseville polling places were taking the same precautions and seeing similar situations in his community.

“Turnout has been very slight. Our absentee turnout is rather huge though,” he said. “We sent out a little over 10,000 (absentee) ballots and got back about 60% of them by the morning of the election.”

He said the only significant problem with the absentee ballots was that they received several that were spoiled since voters cannot split their ticket between Democrats and Republicans, and any who had would have had to cast a new ballot by the end of election day.

Five candidates squared off in the primary for the 22nd District State House seat currently held by Democrat John Chirkun, who has reached the end of his limit of three terms. Steenland, a Democrat, received 4,557 votes, defeating fellow Democratic candidates Ryan Nelson and Michael Anderson, who received 2,327 votes and 1,996 votes, respectively.

“Even though the district leans Democratic, I am taking nothing for granted,” Steenland said in an email. “I plan on continuing to work hard to earn the support of everyone in the district, regardless of their political affiliation. After all, you need to do your best to represent everyone the best you can.”

If elected to representative, the Roseville City Council would appoint someone to complete Steenland’s current term as city clerk.

Steenland said his priorities include finding long-term bipartisan solutions to fix the roads, ensuring that there is access to quality and affordable health insurance and prescription drug coverage by preserving the Healthy Michigan program and implementing better policies and more innovative approaches, as well as investing in more substance abuse and mental health programs.

“My biggest focus is on restoring the economy and getting past the pandemic,” he wrote. “We need to ensure that we have the equipment, resources, and policies in place to protect our families and avoid further shutdowns while restoring our economy. We also need to invest in funding our public schools, preschool through post-secondary, to give our kids an opportunity for a successful and bright future. It means reprioritizing existing funds, restoring the economy to increase the tax base, looking at reforming Proposal A, and improving the accessibility and affordability of college and trade schools. We also need to review tax incentives to see if they work and restore revenue sharing so that we can fund important services such as police and fire and road/water infrastructure improvements.”

Steenland added that he has the experience and expertise to help residents of the 22nd District.

“I have extensive experience in local government, the court system, the administration of elections, labor relations (as a retired member of UAW Local 889 as well as manager of a staff of four), as well as in municipal retirement systems,” he wrote. “I believe that these diverse experiences are necessary to be successful in helping Michigan to become a better and more prosperous state and making state government work better for its citizens. We need to elect individuals that have a background in working collaboratively with fellow elected officials, administrators, the public, unions and stakeholders to come up with common-sense and creative solutions.”

On the Republican side, Steven Warner received 2,667 votes to defeat Jeff Bonnell, who received 2,548 votes.

“My message is I vow to work hard in a bipartisan manner, like I did for 12 years on the (Warren) City Council,” Warner said Aug. 6. “Being on the City Council has a bipartisan interest. I worked with all types of different personalities. I think I can take the same approach to Lansing. Of course, that goes on both sides. The other side has to work with you.”

Warner said he’d push for a permanent solution to fund repairs to Michigan’s troubled roads.

“We need to get the roads fixed,” he said. “We can’t just throw this on a credit card as we go along.”

He also pledged to work to address projected shortfalls in school funding and other areas as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing shutdowns.

“We have to find adequate funding to ensure the common good and the education for the kids, and of course, there’s getting the budget in line,” Warner said. “There’s going to be budget shortfalls all over the place because of what we went through with the shutdown. It’s kind of reminiscent of what we went through in Warren, and everywhere else, when the economy went south. We trimmed down the budget through attrition with employees and we might have to make concessions.”

Warner said he doesn’t know Steenland but that they both served their respective cities at the same time.

He said while the 22nd District’s seat was held by Chirkun for several years during former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s tenure as the state’s executive, perhaps the electorate would opt to send a Republican to Lansing as a check on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat.

“Now maybe it’s time to turn the tide,” Warner said.

He vowed to run a “no-nonsense campaign” through literature, social media postings and online information, but said door-to-door interactions would be limited due to concerns about the coronavirus.

“I don’t know Mr. Steenland. I don’t know anything about his record in Roseville,” Warner said. “That’s for the voters to decide — whether they want to move forward with that approach, or if they want some fresh ideas from an opponent on the other side of the aisle.”

Steenland and Warner will compete for a two-year term to represent the city of Roseville and part of the city of Warren in the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

In the primary for the 9th U.S. Congressional District, incumbent Andy Levin ran unopposed on the Democratic side, receiving 103,132 votes. He will be challenged for the next two-year term in the office by Republican Charles Langworthy, who defeated fellow Republican Gabi Grossbard by a margin of 32,053 votes to 23,807 votes.

For the Macomb County Commission’s 3rd District seat, which encompasses Eastpointe and parts of Warren and St. Clair Shores, incumbent Democrat Veronica Klinefelt ran unopposed and received 8,840 votes. There is no Republican candidate on the ballot.

For the county’s 11th District seat, which encompasses Roseville and Fraser, Democratic incumbent Harold Haugh ran unopposed and received 6,357 votes. He will be challenged in November by Republican candidate Joe Salvaggio, who ran unopposed and received 3,985 votes.

The race for Macomb County prosecuting attorney will for the first time since 2004 elect someone besides former Prosecutor Eric Smith. Smith resigned earlier this year after he was charged with embezzlement and misconduct in office. The winner of the general election will hold the position for a four-year term

On the Democratic side, Mary A. Chrzanowski came out on top of a crowded field with 31,186 votes. She competed with Jodi Switalski, who received 29,133 votes, Saima Khalil, who received 15,456 votes, Tom Rombach, who received 9,970 votes, and Eva Tkaczyk, who received 4,352 votes.

On the Republican side, Peter Lucido defeated Richard Goodman by a margin of 65,650 votes to 30,513 votes. 

In the race for Macomb County Sheriff, incumbent Anthony Wickersham, who has been in the office since 2011, ran unopposed as a Democrat and received 88,350 votes. He will be challenged in November by Republican Terence Mekoski, who defeated fellow Republican Michael Wrathell in the primary by a margin of 50,650 votes to 33,532 votes.

Staff Writer Brian Louwers contributed to this report.