Friday, April 19, 2024

Secretary of State updates: Historic turnout with more than 3 million ballots returned

MI Secretary of State Office reported increase in same-day voter registrations

November 3, 2020
Students line up out side of 54B District Court Nov. 2, 2020 in East Lansing to vote ahead of Tuesday's election.
Students line up out side of 54B District Court Nov. 2, 2020 in East Lansing to vote ahead of Tuesday's election. —
Photo by Emily Bevard | The State News

It’s Election Day, but it might be more appropriate to think of this as election week. 

Throughout the day, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office is providing updates on the tabulation process 

The counting process does not indicate fraud. Michigan has never finished counting ballots on the night of the election. 

Benson said Monday that she expects a safe election with slower results than usual. She said it would take “no more than 80 hours to count absentee ballots submitted before 8 p.m. on election night.”

This means complete unofficial results may not be announced until Friday

SOS spokesperson said MDOS has about 2,000 on-call workers during 9 a.m. brief - by Jack Falinski

Statewide as of Tuesday morning, 3.5 million absentee ballots have been requested. 3.1 million ballots have been returned, according to SOS Director of Communications Jake Rollow. The 89% return rate is less than the 96% return rate back in 2016. 

“That’s to be expected, frankly,” Rollow said of the return rate. “We have almost three times as many ballots.” 

Rollow said since polls opened this morning, there have not been any major problems reported to the Secretary of State. Since the opening of the polls at 7 a.m., Rollow said no reports have been filed for voter intimidation. Long lines, he said, can be attributed in part to social distancing. 

Before the election, MDOS recruited 30,000 election workers, placing thousands across the state in preparation for Election Day, according to Rollow. Additional workers have been requested for Pontiac and Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

“We were prepared for that, we’re ready for that,” Rollow said. “And we expect there may be some more throughout the day.” 

Rollow said MDOS has about 2,000 on-call workers ready to be sent out as needed. 

Among young voters, Rollow said it’s difficult to tell what voter turnout will look like among college campuses. Many college voters, he said, vote absentee.

“What we saw in March was many students registered the same day and went to their clerk's office, so we did see lines then,” Rollow said. “It’s really hard to predict that if students would do that again this semester, just because some students are on campus, some students are not.” 

Many clerk’s offices have opened up satellite locations on campuses. On MSU’s campus, voting locations are at the IM East, IM West and the Union.

MDOS still expects about 2 million people to vote in person today, adding onto the 3.1 million absentee ballots already returned. In Michigan, roughly 8 million people are registered to vote.

SOS Office provides updates on spoiled ballots and robocalls during 1 p.m. brief - by Emily Bevard

As of Tuesday afternoon, about 77,000 ballots have been spoiled, Director of Media Relations Tracy Wimmer said. Reasons for spoiled ballots include printing issues, voter errors filling out ballots, making the decision to vote in person instead or changes in voting decisions. 

Though there is no data to track the number of ballots spoiled for specific reasons, Rollow said. Many thousand were spoiled due to a printing error before they were sent out in multiple jurisdictions.  

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“The voters don’t necessarily have to provide a rationale for spoiling their ballot,” Rollow said. 

Earlier in the day, robocalls out of Flint circulated attempting to misinform voters that they should vote tomorrow due to long lines. In a statement released by the Michigan Department of State (MDOS) they clarified that everyone who plans to vote must be in line to do so by 8 p.m. today. According to the post, lines across the state are minimal and moving quickly.

As of now, Rollow said they do not know who is responsible for the calls or the number of people they may have reached. 

“We’re really just trying to use all avenues we can to make sure that voters know that today is Election Day, and they need to get to the polls by 8 p.m.,” Rollow said. 

Recruited election workers have been referred to election jurisdictions across the state with about 2,000 in reserve. An additional 25 have been sent out with top locations being Grand Rapids and Pontiac.  

In terms of receiving results tonight, Wimmer said the larger jurisdictions, which separate absentee and in-person ballots, will post in-person counts at 8 p.m. and update the other counts as results come in. The smaller locations where ballots are not separated may report the whole vote.

However, Rollow said there is no hard and fast rule overall for when the results get posted.

SOS Office reported an increase in same-day voter registrations during 3 p.m. brief - by Maddie Monroe

Rollow said that more people are trying to register on the same day and vote. Lines have been reported from multiple clerk offices, including in Ann Arbor and at Grand Valley State University. 

“We’re starting to hear more about lines at clerk offices and clerk satellite offices,” Rollow said. “So we are starting to hear that from various clerk offices across the state, Ann Arbor has a line and I believe there is a satellite office at Grand Valley State University that has a line.” 

Rollow also clarified that the spoiled ballots are not rejected ballots; these ballots are simply taken out of commission. 

“I just wanna reiterate spoiled ballots should not be confused with rejected ballots, they are very different,” Rollow said. “Spoiled ballots do not indicate that a voter did not get the opportunity to vote.” 

Wimmer also updated that as of 2:30 p.m., there have been 12,530 same-day voter registrations. The number of returned absentee ballots is still at 3.1 million. 

“Polling places continue to still be a little bit quiet,” Rollow said. “We expect that will pick up probably in the next couple hours, potentially before our next call.”  

Rollow also said that besides the reports of robocalls from Flint and Dearborn, all other reports of misinformation have been small and have been corrected. 

“We’ve seen various, sort of smaller things online that we’ve either flagged or corrected or things like that, but those are certainly the two that got the most attention and required the most containment,” Rollow said. 

An increase in same-day registration and ballots returned reported by SOS Office during 5 p.m. brief - by Kaishi Chhabra

According to Wimmer, the statewide same-day registrations have now increased to 18,822 as of 4:30 p.m. from the 12,530 same-day voter registrations reported at 2:30 p.m.

The top five places in the jurisdiction breakdown were the city of Detroit leading with 805 registrations, followed by the city of Ann Arbor at 472 then Grand Rapids with 302, Lansing with 236 and finally Kalamazoo with 225. 

While the distribution in major cities seems to be pretty even, Rollow said places with more same-day registrations seem to be around college campuses, to some extent. 

The number of ballots returned as of 4:30 p.m. is 3.2 million, according to Wimmer.

Rollow said the ballot numbers in terms of return will continue to change throughout the rest of the day.

In terms of reporting of results tonight, Rollow said there will be a mix of both absentee and precinct ballots available tonight, but not all results are expected. 

“It all depends on how the actual jurisdictions count their ballots,” Rollow said. “And for those who segregate the two, it depends on how quickly they get through their counting vote.” 

Addressing the earlier information provided of “80 hours to count absentee ballots,” Rollow said the expectations haven’t changed drastically, although things are moving along well. 

4:10 “We’ve done everything we could to try and make it feasible for the results to be done as quickly as possible,” Rollow said. “Recruiting an extra 30,000 election workers …  in some jurisdictions doubling, or even tripling, the number of calculation machines they had by allocating funds and working with the legislature to try and get some time before the election day.”

Rollow said the Secretary of State, or SOS, Office expects to have some results long before Friday, but they don’t know if they will have all jurisdiction results by Friday. He said again he does hope the results come much quicker. 

Regardless of how close the races are, Rollow said if there is a substantial number of ballots that are uncounted, they will be providing that information. 

“If a candidate is declaring victory in a way that’s inappropriate, we will be sharing the accurate information so that people are aware that there is counting that still needs to be done,” Rollow said.

Things are going smoothly in Detroit and Oakland County, the two largest counting boards in the states, according to Rollow.

“I’m knocking on wood as I say it, but, right now, in Detroit — and across the state — we’re not hearing a lot of things being problematic,” Rollow said. 


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