LANSING, Mich. (MIRS News) – When will we see election results this November? Michigan’s Secretary of State set a low bar today during a radio interview.
As legislators continue to discuss laws that would allow local clerks to pre-process absentee ballots early, Jocelyn Benson is setting the expectation that the results of the Nov. 8 election should be available by 8 p.m. the day after the election.
In 2020, when 3.3 million of the state’s 5 million voters cast absentee ballots, clerks in areas of certain sizes had a day to pre-process absentee ballots to help speed up the counting of these ballots.
However, the one-day head start was a one-time only exception. Absent any law passed in the coming weeks, local clerks would need to process and count absentee ballot after the polls close at 8 p.m. Election Day.
During the August primary election, both Macomb and Wayne counties didn’t have a critical mass of results until around 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. the next morning and that’s with about 2 million people voting. In 2018, the last gubernatorial election, 4.25 million people voted.
“People should expect results within 24 hours of the polls closing. We try to move efficiently while secure protocols are in place,” Benson said on Michigan’s Big Show starring Michael Patrick Shiels.
Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope said he’s expecting as many as 60% of his voters to vote absentee and, if that’s the case, he’s not expecting to have results in his city until noon the next day, absent any changes.
Benson said best practices from across the country has been to create a seven-day window for pre-processing absentee ballots, and that’s what she is pushing the Legislature to enact. Senate Elections Committee Chair Ruth JOHNSON (R-Holly) said she’s negotiating legislation with the House and the Governor’s office on pre-processing.
Seven days is the recommendation of the Bipartisan Policy Center, which reported early this month that delays in unofficial election results create more confusion about the results.
Twenty-six states, including Ohio, Texas and Florida allow for ballots to be scanned into tabulators ahead of Election Day. Other states allow election officials to verify signatures and prepare ballots for counting, according to the report.
The report also notes that pre-processing also gives clerks time to work out issues that may arise with a voter’s absentee ballot. The issue isn’t new.
Benson and other good government types have been pushing for early processing since 2019, but legislative leadership has expressed concerns about the potential of inviting fraud into the system or the possibility of someone getting a sneak peak at the results.
No state allows for early tabulation. Some states’ systems don’t even allow the machine to calculate numbers before the close of the polls. Those that don’t, have criminal penalties attached to people who try to get an early look at results.
As for what Benson will take out of the legislative process on the issue, she said this morning, “You ask clerks around the state. They’ll take anything.”