Advance Notice: Briefs

Benson warns of late primary results on Tuesday

By: - March 5, 2020 7:10 pm

Susan J. Demas

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, hoping to temper expectations of when Michigan’s presidential primary votes will be fully counted for Tuesday’s presidential primary, held a press conference Thursday to warn that it may take hours — and possibly days — longer than usual to achieve a full vote count.

Benson said the expectation there will be a slower turnaround time to tabulate votes is due to an 80% increase in absentee voting in Michigan since the 2016 presidential election, with at least 500,000 absentee ballots already submitted ahead of Tuesday.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Dec. 12, 2019 | Laina G. Stebbins

That’s due to Proposal 3, a voting rights constitutional amendment that passed in 2018, allowing for a variety of measures including no-reason absentee voting, same-day voter registration and voting by mail.

Benson also assuaged fears of foreign and domestic interference in Michigan’s election process, saying there has been no evidence of foul play and the state election system is very secure.

“It’s important that all Michiganders, and, in fact, all Americans, know that results that come later in the evening do not suggest that errors or fraudulent activity have occured,” Benson said.

“On the contrary, the later than-usual results are evidence that clerks are working diligently to carry out the additional work on their plates in a way that is ethical and accurate.”

She also called on the Legislature to pass legislation that would allow clerks to process absentee ballots before Election Day. Currently, clerks cannot begin this process until 7 a.m. on the day of the election.

With only five days left until the presidential primary, there is still time to register to vote and cast your ballot in Michigan. Visit your city or township clerk’s office to register and vote all in one visit. If you have questions about how to register and vote, or experience any challenges along the way, the ACLU and its partners can help. Call with any questions or problems at (866) OUR-VOTE, or visit

Complicating this is the fact that absentee ballots can be “spoiled” and recast for a different candidate until Saturday via mail, and until Monday in person.

Sen. Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) signaled last month that he didn’t plan to pass legislation to extend the processing window for absentee ballots. The Senate still had not take action as of this week.

Michiganders have between now and 8 p.m. Tuesday, when all state precincts close, to register to vote and cast their ballot at their city or township clerk’s office.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.