Photo by Montez Miller.
Photo by Montez Miller.

Despite expected challenges, Michigan election officials from the Secretary of State’s office to local county clerks say they are confident in a secure, accurate count.

LANSING, Mich.—As Michigan tabulates it’s final votes, leaders around the state hailed a successful, record-breaking election. Despite all the challenges Michigan faced, from millions of absentee votes to a global pandemic, the election was a fundamentally smooth process. 

“From the moment the polls opened yesterday when our poll workers and election workers were able to begin tabulating ballots up until now, they have been following every rule, meticulously counting every vote, doing so transparently,” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said Wednesday night. “I’m very confident in our work, I’m very confident in our processes and I’m very confident we’re going to continue counting the vote until every vote is counted in Michigan.”

While President Donald Trump has launched attacks on the longer counting times Michigan has faced as a result of many absentee votes, Michigan officials vow that the process has been secure and safe. 

“Our process has many checks and balances in place to ensure our results are accurate and secure,” Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown told The ‘Gander.

In deep-red Antrim County, it was the longer count times afforded them the time to identify and address an error with electronic tape that led to accurately counted votes being inaccurately reported.

In Washtenaw County, where turnout set records and absentee ballots were almost all returned, Clerk Lawrence Kestenbaum pointed out that ease of recount like the process needed in distant Antrim is a strength of Michigan’s process. 

“All votes, in every part of the state, are cast on optical scan paper ballots, which can be checked and recounted,” he told The ‘Gander.  “In past recounts, notably the 2016 recount of the presidential vote, hand counting ballots demonstrated that the tabulations were extremely accurate.”

Kestenbaum also said Michigan’s recounts tend to be speedy because of it’s simple optical scan ballots, meaning there is rarely cause to argue over “voter intent” which played a central role in the much maligned recount in Florida following the 2000 election

When it came to counting ballots, Michigan election officials faced issues other states did not—particularly having to wait until Election Day to start counting. Other states allowed clerks additional time to process absentee ballots before this election. Processing those ballots—a process that includes matching signatures and smoothing the ballots out—takes a lot of time and contributes heavily to how long the 2020 election tabulation has taken. 

California can process ballots nearly a month before the election, while twelve states including Georgia can process a ballot the moment it’s received. 

Michigan got an additional few hours to process its more than 3 million absentee ballots. 

And the process has been disputed by Republicans. While Michigan law calls for bipartisan poll challengers to oversee ballot counting, a large group of Republican challengers stormed the outside the TCF Center in Detroit, where final ballots were being counted.  Following Trump’s lawsuit to halt Michigan’s ballot count, Trump supporters gathered at the windows and chanted, “Stop The Count” to disrupt the process of officials counting inside. More challengers were not allowed in because the polling staff was already at capacity, according to reports

“The thing about the American democracy as we settle our differences at the polls, and when the one way the voters speak when the American people save what they want, it is their will that controls,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told WILX. “Be patient … support our clerks. They’re doing an incredibly important job under incredibly stressful circumstances.”