LANSING, Mich. - The polls may still be open, but secretary of state's office is warning Michigan's total vote count won't come until late the next day.
During a conference call on Tuesday, officials with the SOS said due to the large increase in absentee ballots, the full results of the Michigan Primary won't be tabulated until mid-afternoon Wednesday.
While the slow counting may bother officials keen on knowing the final results of Michigan's race, the delayed results come as little surprise.
In an opinion piece authored in USA Today, Secretary Jocelyn Benson said a combination of updated election rules and antiquated election laws will prevent its clerks from totalling every vote cast, and warned the election result may not be known "well into Wednesday."
"Indeed, as the state's chief election official, I am keenly aware that the eyes of the country will be awaiting the outcome of our presidential primary this evening. And they will need to wait a little longer than usual. Because it is a new day for democracy in our state, with new rights for voters and greater security measures in place than ever before," wrote Benson.
Those new rights include a newly approved ballot measure that allows Michigan voters to cast their ballot via absentee, without providing a reason why. Prop 3 was approved in the 2018 midterms.
Mostly untested in large elections, March 10 represented the state's first introduction into the window of expanded absentee voting. Compared to the 2016 presidential primaries, the absentee ballot count almost doubled, up more than 95% this year. More than 800,000 absentee ballots were mailed in ahead of the primary.
Clerks are legally restricted from counting absentee ballots until election day. Due to the several other steps involved in counting absentee ballots, both the secretary of state and clerks counting the ballots prepared for a late-night, expecting to not have every vote counted by the end of Tuesday.
“You just want to stress it’s not speed, it’s accuracy,” Kim Meltzer, Clinton Township clerk previously told FOX 2. “Every vote has to count. Sometimes they come in (stained) with olive oil or corn that we may need to spend more time on. You just don’t know what the day’s going to look like.”
While legislation has been introduced to allow clerks to sidestep some of the barriers, those efforts were largely shot down by the GOP leadership in the state senate.
"I don’t necessarily think we should be trying to solve a problem before it actually occurs,” Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) told reporters in February. "If I had to choose between early voting, early counting, versus late reporting, I’ll take late reporting all day long."
People vote in the Michigan primary election at Chrysler Elementary School in Detroit, Michigan, on March 10, 2020. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP) (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)
Benson also wrote the state was planning on being more methodical in its vote count, ensuring Michigan's election systems are more secure. Only after votes are individually counted will electronic tabulators in some jurisdictions be hooked up to the Internet. Even then, many others won't and will need to drive the results to the county clerk's office.
This process ensures there's a paper record that can be checked.
"While we know there may be a rush to predict and prognosticate the outcome tonight, we in Michigan are prioritizing accuracy and security above all else. So if and when it takes longer that usual for Michigan's results to come in tonight or tomorrow, it's not a sign of errors or fraud," Benson wrote. "It is evidence that our election administrators are working diligently to carry out the additional work on their plates in a way that is ethical and accurate."
Jack Nissen is a reporter at FOX 2 Detroit. You can contact him at (248) 552-5269 or at Jack.Nissen@Foxtv.com