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Here's how absentee ballots are counted in Michigan

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Posted at 4:40 AM, Nov 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-03 05:49:14-05

(WXYZ) — Millions of Michiganders have already cast their ballots by mail, but Tuesday morning, those voting in person will also make their voices heard.

So far in Michigan, more than 3.1 million absentee ballots have already been returned, according to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on 7 Action News Tuesday morning.

In Macomb County as of Friday, they have received almost 230,000 absentee ballots, out of 291,000 sent out.

Most communities in Macomb County use an absent voter counting board, meaning those ballots are counted separate from those cast in-person Tuesday. Just a couple small precincts count them altogether. But then Tuesday night, once the polls close, they’re all tabulated together.

“They send them to us separately and then our results website," said Macomb County Clerk Fred Miller. "You can look by precinct, that will have your Election Day total and then your absentee ballot total.”

And with historic levels of absentee ballots this cycle, state elections officials are preparing for a longer counting period, possibly even days after the polls close.

It’s something local clerks, like Fred Miller are also anticipating. Extra tabulating machines have been deployed in Macomb County in preparation for Election Day.

For the state’s largest communities, cities or townships with at least 25,000 people — election workers were able to start pre-processing absentee ballots Monday, which could shave off some time.

“If it takes a couple extra hours, if it takes an extra day, so be it," said Miller. “We have the time to do this. We’re going to do it right and we’re going to make sure that every vote is counted.”

Miller says because of the high number of absentee voters, lines at physical polling places should be minimal.

“The lines may appear a little bit longer when people are approaching but that’s just because we’re going to have the line’s socially distanced," said Miller.

And this year, Detroit’s professional sports teams are jumping into the election arena. Players have already partners with the Secretary of State’s Office for “Get Out The Vote” events.

Lions staff will serve as elections workers, and Ford Field will host eight of Detroit’s 12 receiving boards, after the polls close Tuesday night.

And over the past several weeks, Little Ceasar’s Arena served as training grounds for 6,000 election volunteers.

Statewide, election workers will have masks on, and voters are strongly encouraged – but not required – to follow suit.

Most importantly Miller says he hopes people in every county make their voices heard.

“If you don’t weigh-in, somebody else is making the decision for you," said Miller.

President Trump has said a winner should be declared Tuesday night, but from what elections officials both in Michigan say and reports from elections officials in other states – that likely won’t be possible.

In 2016, the voter turnout in Macomb County was just about 67 percent — Macomb County played a big role in President Trump’s victory in Michigan.

This cycle, Miller says voter turnout here could be closer to 70 percent, around where it was in 2008.