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Michigan Secretary of State Benson: Election Day could become election week

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

Election Day in November could end up being an election week, Michigan's secretary of state said Sunday. 

The state is anticipating delays in counting results the night of the Nov. 3 election, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

"The bottom line is, we're not going to have the full results and counting of all of our ballots on election night," Benson said. "But I'm also laser focused on accuracy, and if it takes a few extra days to ensure we have a full and accurate counting of the results of every race, that's what it's going to take.

"With that said, we're increasing tabulators, we're increasing capacity to more efficiently and securely have those ballots," she said. 

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks at Democratic National Convention on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020.

One of the silver linings in Michigan this election year, Benson said, is that residents have options for how they can vote. 

Of those options, Michiganians can vote early by mail, can return ballots to drop boxes, can vote early in person at local clerk's offices and in person at precincts on Election Day, Benson said. 

"We've been able to hone this plan for November through three successful elections that we've had already this year, where we've seen every single one turnout has doubled, putting us on track to have Michigan's November election be the highest turnout ever in the history of our state," Benson said. 

On Sept. 2, Benson announced a partnership with Detroit Clerk Janice Winfrey to ensure the "integrity and accessibility" of the Nov. 3 election in Detroit, the state's largest city.

The partnership comes after recorded ballot counts in 72% of Detroit's absentee voting precincts didn't match the number of ballots cast in the Aug. 4. primary. The out-of-balance totals mean the precincts' results likely couldn't be recounted in a close race under state law and spurred the Michigan Board of State Canvassers last month to ask Benson to oversee the city's election.

The new collaboration will involve hiring staff to support the city clerk's office — including Chris Thomas, who was Michigan's elections director for more than 30 years, as a senior adviser — and revising protocols for ballot counting and sorting, according to a press release.

The partnership will also involve collaborative efforts to recruit and train additional staff and election workers and open 14 new satellite clerk offices throughout the city.

The 14 new satellite offices will add to seven others already in place. At the offices, voters can register and request and return absentee ballots starting Oct. 5.

Concern about election integrity has spurred a national debate following President Trump's claims that there are differences between voting absentee and widespread voting by mail and after cost-cutting policy changes by the Postal Service during the COVID-19 pandemic.