Massive absentee ballot surge could delay some Michigan primary results a day or two

August 03, 2020, 8:13 PM

Polling places in Metro Detroit and throughout Michigan will look a bit different for Tuesday's primaries, and some final counts could take a while -- perhaps a day or more.

The new sights, predictably, will be medical-style accessories that now are part of daily life. The state "has provided every election jurisdiction with masks, gloves and cleaning supplies, as well as protocols for hygiene and social distancing," the secretary of state says Monday in a release. "All election workers will wear masks and voters are strongly encouraged to do so."

Delays in getting full results in populous areas are anticipated because a record level of absentee ballots await tabulating, which can't start until Tuesday morning. As of early Monday, the number of absentee voters was up more than 182 percent from a day before August 2016 state primaries.

(Photo: Michigan Secretary of State)

Some outcomes may be unclear until late Wednesday or even Thursday. Here's why, says the primary eve "bulletin" from Jocelyn Benson's office in Lansing:

As of Monday morning, more than 1.28 million absent voter ballots had been cast, breaking the record for total absent voter ballots ever cast in a Michigan election. The previous record was 1.27 million, cast in the November 2016 General Election.

Voters amended the state constitution in 2018 to give all voters the right to cast absent voter ballots. This new right and the pandemic have led to a surge in voting by mail.

This may result in delayed election results because, unlike in at least 18 other states, Michigan law does not allow clerks to even begin preparing absent voter ballots for counting until Election Day morning.

Benson suggests that the legislature should make "needed statutory changes before November" to allow earlier counting by each municipal clerk's staff.

Her media handout shows the dramatic surge in Michigan absentee balloting compared to August 2016:

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