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Michigan warns absentee ballots deluge may delay Nov. 8 election results

i voted by mail sticker
Michigan officials warn that the winners of the Nov. 8 election may not be known for a full day because of a deluge of absentee ballots. (Shutterstock)
  • High absentee voting volume could delay election results a full day
  • Over 1.7 million have sought an absentee ballot, up from 912,000 four years ago
  • Over 432,000 voters have already returned them, including nearly 278,000 in the past week

Michigan officials are warning the results of the Nov. 8 election may not be known for a full day because of a huge volume of absentee ballots.

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Jack Rollow, chief external affairs officer for the Michigan Secretary of State’s office, said Tuesday the volume will make it hard for all clerks to process the results quickly.

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All told, more than 1.7 million voters have requested to vote absentee so far. That’s almost double the 913,000 voters who did so at this time in 2018, before Michigan approved no-reason absentee voting.

Through Tuesday, the Secretary of State’s office said over 432,000 absentee ballots have been returned, while another 100,000 voters requested them.

 

Rollow estimated that, based on the return of absentee ballots in 2020, as many as 4.5 million voters could vote in this election, up from 4.3 million in 2018. In August, the state said there were 8.1 million registered voters in Michigan.

In late September, the Legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer agreed to allow election clerks two days to pre-process — but not count — absentee ballots. 

Rollow said clerks across Michigan may not take advantage of the extra time. The Detroit News reported this week that clerks in many large municipalities either can’t hire staffers or expect a decrease in absentee ballots.

“Some clerks have already hired their staff, or just aren't quite sure that the trade-off is worth it,” Rollow said on Tuesday, adding the extra time “may be more useful in 2024 when clerks have more lead time on it.

Voting absentee

To vote absentee, registered voters must request their ballot by 5 p.m. Nov. 4.

Bridge Michigan has a guide about the upcoming deadlines for registration, absentee ballots and other voter information.

Absentee ballot requests continue to be highest in Democratic-leaning counties and in those with higher rates of elderly voters, who have more traditionally voted absentee.

In Leelanau, Washtenaw, Ingham and Grand Traverse counties, absentee requests equal nearly 50 percent of the total vote in 2018. 

In some rural counties, including Gogebic, Wexford and Arenac, absentee ballot requests are equal to roughly a quarter of the voters.

Voters can still register to vote online through Oct. 24 at  Michigan.gov/Vote. However, they can still register in person at their local clerk’s office through 8 p.m. on Election Day.

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