Benson: Michigan vote tabulation complete; final results being reported out

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

A record of more than 5.2 million Michigan residents voted in Tuesday's election, but a group of about 100,000 in four Democratic-leaning cities ended up pushing the state's results into Wednesday evening. 

Election workers in Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and some small communities worked throughout Wednesday to process a little more than 100,000 ballots, most of them among the 3.26 million absentee ballots cast and processed in Michigan this election cycle.

As the counts were processed, they prompted a lawsuit by President Donald Trump's campaign and protests outside a locked processing center in Detroit. They also slowly pushed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden ahead by roughly 70,000 votes as of 6 p.m., when he was declared Michigan's winner. 

At about 8 p.m., Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced all of Michigan's votes had been tabulated. Counties were in the final stages of reporting them out for the canvassing process to begin, she said.

Despite "false tweets," "staged protests," "doctored images" and "frivolous lawsuits," the process in Michigan worked, Benson said. 

"Our system is secure, accurate and anyone who tells you otherwise is attacking our democracy or unhappy with the results,” she said. 

In Grand Rapids alone, officials still were counting roughly 59,000 absentee ballots as of Wednesday morning. 

Kalamazoo was counting the last 2,600 of its 21,000 absentee ballots Wednesday, said Clerk Scott Borling. 

Flint's absentee counting board was working its way through between 19,000 and 20,000 absentee ballots, nearly double its highest absentee turnout in 2008 when more than 10,000 people voted absentee. 

"We're been working as expeditiously as we can with our AV counting board," Flint Clerk Inez Brown said.

As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, election workers in Detroit had counted about 162,000 absentee ballots and planned to complete its counting of the 178,000 returned by 6 p.m. Wednesday.

The clerk's office said Tuesday night, as of 8 p.m., that it had received between 170,000 and 180,000 absentee ballots. Benson said the total number of absentee ballots for Detroit was uncertain at that time as the ballots from ballot boxes and satellite clerk's offices were being logged around the same time. 

A total of roughly 5.3 million ballots were tallied in the presidential race, with Democratic candidate Joe Biden leading by about 70,000 votes over Trump in unofficial results.

About 3.26 million had voted absentee and 2 million to 2.5 million in person in Michigan.

Trump's campaign filed suit Wednesday afternoon seeking a pause in the counting of ballots until the campaign could ensure election challengers were granted more access to the county process. Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens did not rule on the request before Michigan ballot counting was complete. 

As the lawsuit was announced, Republican challengers protested outside Detroit's absentee counting board at the TCF Center, where they were locked out because of COVID-19 space restrictions. 

Dozens of others of GOP challengers had been in the TCF Center Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Michigan race was called for Biden about 6 p.m., as he led the president 50.3% to 48.1% with 99% of precincts reporting — a difference of about 120,000 votes. Trump won Michigan in 2016 by 10,704 votes.

Trump claimed early Wednesday morning that he had already won the national election even though millions of votes still needed to be counted in battleground states. 

Later Wednesday morning, Trump complained about the effect mail-in ballots were having on his standing in the race. 

"Last night I was leading, often solidly, in many key States, in almost all instances Democrat run & controlled. Then, one by one, they started to magically disappear as surprise ballot dumps were counted. VERY STRANGE, and the 'pollsters' got it completely & historically wrong!" Trump wrote on Twitter.