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Election Day Updates: What Voting Looks Like In Detroit


Our national political correspondent Don Gonyea has been covering presidential campaigns for NPR since 2000. And on this Election Day, we find him in the battleground state of Michigan - in fact, at a voting center in Detroit.

Hey there, Don.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Hey. How are you doing?

KELLY: I am OK so far. Thank you. So Michigan - we were just hearing from one of our reporters there, Abigail Censky, saying it may take a few days before every vote can be counted and we know who won Michigan. As you interview people there, how do they feel about that? Are they inclined to be patient?

GONYEA: Well, other than feeling good about finally being able to cast a vote after a long campaign in one of those swing states that got so much attention - TV ads, candidate visits, the - you know, the whole bit, people knocking on doors and everything else - I can tell you, boy, do people want it to be over. Nobody's talking about being patient. They want to know tonight that their candidate won. But they also do know that with the crush of absentee ballots that came in in the state that it may indeed take some time. One caveat on that, though - officials did start prepping and sorting absentee ballots for counting yesterday, so that may indeed save them a lot of time for the actual counting, which started this morning. So maybe they won't have to wait till Friday.

KELLY: Yeah. But stay with the impact of all those mail-in ballots to be counted. Can you tell whether it is having an impact on turnout today, on how many people are left to vote in Michigan?

GONYEA: I think it has. I visited a half-dozen voting locations around the Detroit area today. It was the noon hour, and I found no lines. There was a steady stream of people but nobody lined up around the block, down the street like we saw at so many early voting sites around the country. And, again, that's likely because so many voters cast ballots early. And when everything is tallied up here in Michigan, the secretary of state says she thinks about two-thirds of the total vote will have been cast prior to Election Day.


GONYEA: So that explains the lighter-than-normal turnout at the actual polling places.

KELLY: This is such an unusual election in...


KELLY: ...So many ways. One side note - I want people listening to know you are home. You're a native of Michigan. I know you've covered politics there for so long. Give us a few places to keep our eye on tonight as results do start popping up.

GONYEA: I've been at this so long, I saw Aretha Franklin sing to Mike Dukakis in downtown Detroit.


KELLY: That would be something.

GONYEA: So that was a little while ago. Anyway, here's what I'm looking for. You always look for turnout levels in Detroit, especially this year because last time around, turnout in this majority-African American city fell off significantly. And Hillary Clinton, who never really campaigned in Detroit, lost the state by just a sliver. She lost by 0.2%. So we're going to see what the turnout is this year.

You look at Macomb County. It became famous long ago as the home of the Reagan Democrats. It's working-class. It's gone back and forth from election to election. It supported Barack Obama, then flipped and went big for Trump. The president needs the same kind of performance there this year. But maybe the most important place is Oakland County, a sprawling suburb just north of Detroit.


GONYEA: For decades - decades - it was reliably Republican. These days, like suburbs everywhere, Democrats are counting on it. Joe Biden is counting on it.

KELLY: NPR's Don Gonyea reporting tonight from a voting center in Detroit.

Thank you, Don.

GONYEA: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.
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