A full and accurate count of Michigan’s votes should take about 80 hours, estimates the State Department.
LANSING, Mich.—Nov. 3 is sure to be an unprecedented Election Day. Poised to shatter turnout records despite taking place during a once-in-a-century global health emergency, Michigan’s election officials are preparing for the unknown.
With local elections in May, and state-level primaries in August, the process has been well-rehearsed and troubleshooting has been done on some of the greatest challenges this unique election year presents.
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has repeatedly cautioned Michiganders that this unusual election will probably take more time than normal.
That doesn’t have her panicked, though.
“I’m not feeling stressed, I’m actually feeling quite confident and ready,” says Benson on Detroit Today. “We’re on track for record-breaking voter turnout in the midst of a pandemic, which is quite remarkable. And that not only shows that Michigan voters are participating, engaged, enthusiastic, but also they trust our election system.”
Michiganders are used to knowing results in the late hours of Tuesday night or early hours of Wednesday morning. This year, knowing results Friday is Benson’s hope. But even meeting that time frame is not the primary objective, explained State Department spokesperson Tracy Wimmer.
“Our top priority is ensuring voters and the public know that to accurately and securely process the volume of absentee ballots we’ve received is going to take time, and we’re not willing to sacrifice accuracy for speed,” Wimmer explained to The ‘Gander. “It took approximately 40 hours to fully count the 1.6 million absentee ballots returned during the August statewide primary, and given we’ll likely receive more than double that this election, we can expect it will take double the time, or about 80 hours, until Friday to have a complete unofficial count.”
The unofficial count is normally what comes in the hours after the election, with the official number not being available for weeks, until the election results are certified. But because it takes much longer to count absentee ballots than it does in-person election day ballots, those unofficial results will be delayed in 2020, while likely not substantially delaying the certification process.
Wimmer knows that the differences from normal and the uncertainty delays create can worry Michiganders, but reassures that the process will be accurate and safe throughout the coming week. The extra time it will take is what is needed to ensure accuracy in a state expected to be a key for both candidates, she explained.
“The Secretary and the Department of State have worked diligently this year to ensure voters know their rights and how to exercise them, and as a result we’ve seen more people than ever before exercise their right to vote absentee, and have successfully, securely and safely held multiple elections this year despite a global pandemic,” Wimmer said. “We have provided the physical and financial resources our clerks need to accurately and safely process the millions of absentee ballots that have been returned, as well as conducting safe in person voting. Voters can be confident that every valid vote submitted by 8 p.m. on Election Day will be counted.”
Wimmer also pointed out essential information the State Department wants voters to have, including the fact that in-person voting at polling places will be safe and will use every tool available to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at the polls. Voters can also register to vote at their polling place on election day.
Voters with absentee ballots still should turn them into their clerk directly or at one of Michigan’s ballot drop boxes as they must be received by local clerks when polls close to be counted.
The Department of State stressed that voter intimidation in any form is illegal, and any harassment at the polls should be reported to election clerks.
Benson told Michiganders that just because the process might be longer, doesn’t mean it’s any less secure.
“[Election workers] will be, in earnest, methodically and securely tabulating every ballot, every valid ballot, and ensuring every absentee ballot is counted by a pair of election workers, one from each major political party,” Benson told WLIX. “Social distancing protocols will be in place to ensure that their health is protected and their safety is protected.”
Early voting in Michigan is still underway. Check The ‘Gander’s election hub for the information you need to take to the polls and make your voice heard.