DETROIT (AP) — Michigan voters lined up early Tuesday at precincts around the state, bundled against temperatures in the 20s and 30s, to cast ballots in a host of local, state and national races, led by president and Congress.
About 70 people stood outside at Bethlehem Temple Church in Lansing as polls opened and dozens lined up outside a recreation center in Detroit that serves as a polling place. Voters came ready for the weather in winter coats and hats.
Porsha Wilburn, 29, of Lansing, sat in her pickup truck for about an hour before polls opened. The accountant said she isn't affiliated with a political party but that she planned to vote for President Barack Obama despite not being "100 percent happy" with the Democrat's performance.
Of Republican challenger Mitt Romney, she said he "didn't seem to respect other people" during the two presidential debates she watched.
Wayne Humphrey, 61, said he voted a straight Republican ticket. The Lansing resident who works as a financial controller for a manufacturing company said he doesn't always vote for GOP candidates but did Tuesday because of Right to Life endorsements.
"My values lined up with Mitt Romney," Humphrey said. "I believe in the sanctity of marriage and so does he. I'm a Christian. I vote my values."
In addition to presidential race, Michigan voters see six contentious proposals could be among the strongest indicators of the statewide mood.
Five proposals would alter the Michigan Constitution, including one that would give public and private workers the constitutional right to unionize and collectively bargain contracts. The only measure that doesn't call for an amendment instead asks voters whether to keep the law that allows the state to appoint emergency managers with broad powers to fix broke cities and school districts.
Other measures would order electric utilities to generate one-quarter of their power from renewable sources by 2025, make tax increases contingent on a two-thirds legislative vote and require a public vote before state money can be spent on a new crossing between Michigan and Canada.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder isn't on the ballot but has been in campaign mode, voicing his support for the tough emergency managers measure he signed into law last year and his strong opposition to all the other proposals — which could thwart his efforts to continue overhauling the tax structure and limit future budget negotiation options.
The secretary of state's office declined to predict statewide turnout, but clerk's offices in some populous counties expected just slightly lower participation than in 2008. Oakland County, which primarily elects Republicans to county positions but hasn't gone for a GOP presidential candidate since 1988, forecast a turnout between 70 percent and 72 percent — a negligible decline from a record 72.5 percent in 2008. Clerk's spokesman David Mroz said officials aren't concerned, given most of the nation's counties "would be happy to see a 70 percent turnout."
It's been just as long since a Republican presidential nominee won Michigan, and if Romney breaks the trend early, it will be a bad sign for Obama, who easily carried the state four years ago. Polls consistently favored the president, albeit narrowly. Romney has emphasized personal ties to his native state but will be hard-pressed to overcome his opposition to the Obama administration's rescue of General Motors and Chrysler.
Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, meanwhile, is seeking a third term after a challenge from former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra. With no Democratic primary opposition, Stabenow amassed a big fundraising advantage and spent heavily on television commercials portraying herself as a champion of Michigan manufacturers and farmers.
Hoekstra tried linking her to the state's economic struggles, which he blamed on Obama's economic policies. But he ran into trouble early with a campaign ad featuring an Asian-American actress speaking broken English to suggest Stabenow was soft on China, and his campaign struggled.
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Associated Press writers David Aguilar, Mike Householder, Corey Williams, Ed White and John Flesher contributed to this report.