Michigan SOS: Delayed results could stretch Nov. Election Day into ‘election week’

Influx of voters, mail-in ballots expected to delay reporting of General Election results in Michigan

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is expecting General Election results to be delayed for multiple days this November, as the state anticipates its highest voter turnout in history.

Not only are more Michigan residents expected to vote in the 2020 General Election than any other election in the state’s history, but a record number of them are planning to do so by mail -- which has an impact on the rate at which ballots are processed.

Michigan and a number of other states have prioritized mail-in voting, also known as voting absentee, for this year’s elections due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While absent voter ballots provide a safe alternative to voting in person at the polls on Election Day, the process of counting absent voter ballots can determine how quickly, or not, final election results are announced.

Processing absent voter ballots in Michigan

The process for counting absent voter ballots is different in each state.

In Michigan, election workers are not allowed to begin processing absent voter ballots until 7 a.m. on Election Day. Nearly 20 other states allow clerks to count absent voter ballots as they are returned, enabling them to process ballots and report results much earlier than some states.

With an anticipated high voter turnout and influx of Michigan absent voter ballots for the November General Election, Benson says that the state’s election results will not be reported on election night, and may even take days to announce.

“We should be prepared for this to be closer to an election week as opposed to an Election Day,” Benson said during an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. “The bottom line is that we are not going to have the full results and accounting of all of our ballots on election night. We already know that. We’ve asked the legislature to make changes to the law to give us more ability to be prepared and count those ballots more efficiently -- they have not acted, for reasons I don’t fully, completely understand.”

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