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Benson: Michigan election will be secure, accurate; but results may take days

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says voting is more accessible than ever before this election year, and the results will be accurate—but not necessarily quick.

Benson urged Michigan voters to take advantage of early voting, which has already begun, as she picked up a ballot at a satellite clerk’s office in Detroit on Monday. It’s one of 23 satellite clerk’s offices that the city, working with Benson’s office, has established for Detroit voters to register, pick up, and cast their ballots leading up to Election Day.

Benson said voting absentee is a safe option. For now, those ballots can be dropped off or mailed in—but that will change as November 3 approaches.

“Certainly, as we get to within two weeks of the election, we’re going to be telling every voter to not return your ballot through the mail—it’s too close to Election Day,” Benson said. “Return it to your local dropbox or your clerk’s office.”

Benson said her office expects at least three million people to vote absentee this year—and as a result, getting results will take longer.

As of Monday, 2.7 million Michigan voters had requested absentee ballots—an “extraordinary number,” Benson said. Because it takes longer to process and count absentee votes, Benson set the expectation that full, statewide results may not be known until Friday, November 6.

That process should be “methodical, secure, not rushed, because that’s when mistakes can occur,” Benson said.

“Giving our clerks until Friday gives them some breathing room as well, to make sure while they’re handling more ballots than ever before, they can do so securely.”

That may be especially true in Detroit, where Benson’s office has formed a “partnership” with City Clerk Janice Winfrey’s office to make voting in the city both more accessible and less error-prone. In the August primary, many Detroit precincts—including a vast majority of absentee voter precincts—reported mismatches between voters listed in electronic poll books and the number of ballots actually counted.

Both Benson and Winfrey say that was the result of human error that didn't change the final results, and there's zero evidence of fraud. But Benson said she now speaks almost daily with Winfrey, is leading a large-scale effort to recruit and train poll workers, and has put former State Elections Director Christopher Thomas in the clerk’s office as an advisor. “It’s a team effort,” Benson said.

But Benson’s main message was one of reassurance—and reminding voters of their unprecedented access to the ballot this year. “The results of our elections will be an accurate reflection of the will of the people, and being transparent and open throughout that process is an important part of that,” she said.

Detroit voter Alethia Pinkard came to cast her vote at Detroit’s Northwest Activities Center on Monday. She said she appreciates the ability to vote early, and a satellite office.

“Because of my work schedule, I just wanted to be able to know that my vote counts, and my voice is heard,” she said.

“I love how they are allowing us to vote early, and all the different aspects of voting. Like the idea that we can just vote, no one will be excluded, and you can vote at your convenience.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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