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Why Michigan election results could be delayed

Unofficial results may take longer to report than usual due to the increased use of absentee ballots.
Credit: WZZM

MICHIGAN, USA — The Nov. 3 general election is quickly approaching. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are using absentee ballots to cast their votes. According to the Michigan Secretary of State Office (SOS), this means unofficial results may take longer to report than normal.

RELATED: Voter Guide 2020: What you need to know about the election in Michigan

What are unofficial election results?

Unofficial results are the ones reported on election night. In the two weeks following the election, a county canvass will determine the official results per county. A week after that, the state canvass makes results official statewide.

Ultimately, according to the Secretary of State, unofficial results are ones that have not been certified by county and/or state canvassers.

► Learn more about unofficial election results here.

When will unofficial election results be reported?

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told 13 ON YOUR SIDE that 1.6 million citizens voted by mail in Michigan’s primary election on Tuesday, Aug. 4. Due to the high quantity of absentee ballots, full results weren’t reported until late Wednesday, Aug. 5.

This is because, according to the state, the influx in absentee ballots creates more activity for election officials on election day and requires additional time before unofficial results can be reported. This could cause a delay during the upcoming election day, as Benson expects absentee voting for the general election to be double that of the primary.

As of Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2.2 million absentee ballots were requested in Michigan, according to the Secretary of State. 

RELATED: How to vote by mail in Michigan

“We're trying to make some changes because what we know is probably twice the number of people who voted by mail for the August primary will vote by mail in November, so that means there would be twice the time to count those ballots which takes us to Friday night--when we can expect that all to be done,” Benson said. “Now, no one wants us to be in a position where we're counting for three days after the polls close.”

In an attempt to reduce the amount of time it takes for general election results to be reported, Benson said she is doing two things:

  1. Asking the legislature to enable the SOS office to prepare ballots to be counted prior to Election Day. Currently, the SOS cannot start opening envelopes until the morning of the election.
  2. Increasing the number of people and machines that most communities will have at their disposal to count ballots beginning election day.

While it may take longer for results to be reported this election, state election officials day that does not mean errors or foul play have occurred.

“Rather, it is likely evidence that election officials are diligently taking on an increased Election Day workload to provide accurate results,” according to the office.

RELATED: How to register to vote in Michigan

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