Benson: Completion of 250 audits establishes 'accuracy' of November election

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

More than 250 election audits completed across the state have "confirmed the integrity and accuracy" of the November election, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said Tuesday. 

The audits were conducted by about 1,300 GOP, Democratic and nonpartisan clerks across the state, beginning after the statewide certification of results in December and ending last week with the completion of Wayne County's procedural audit.

Benson urged lawmakers continuing to question the state's results to stop their rhetoric, especially given the results of the state audits. 

"It is time to acknowledge the truth and move forward," Benson said. "Our democracy requires this of all of us.”

Among the more prominent of the reviews was a hand count of every ballot cast for president in Antrim County, which found a net gain of 12 votes for former President Donald Trump's 3,800-vote victory there, and a hand count of 18,000 randomly selected ballots across the state to ensure tabulated results matched the paper ballot. 

The city of Detroit also was able to confirm that the clerk's office, while it made some clerical errors, properly counted 174,000 valid absentee ballots that corresponded to signed envelopes for registered voters, Benson's office said.

Auditors were able to bring into balance or explain imbalances in 83% of counting boards, up from 27% at the close of the canvass, Benson said. The total number of ballots out of balance accounted for 17 of the 174,000 absentee ballots counted in Detroit.

Similarly, in Grand Rapids, the percent of balanced or explained increased from 62% post-canvass to 87% post-audit; in Livonia, where the percent increased from 34% post-canvass to 77% post-audit; and in Sterling Heights, where the percent increased from 58% post-canvass to 71% post-audit, Benson said. 

Out-of-balance precincts or counting boards occur when there's a clerical error causing the pollbook to be out of balance with actual ballots. Election officials usually are able to explain the discrepancies, but the two-week time frame for canvassing makes it difficult to do so before a county's certification of results. Votes from an unexplained, unbalanced precinct or counting board cannot be used in a recount.

Benson said the issue could be addressed if lawmakers changed laws to allow for more time before election day to process absentee ballots and more time for canvassing afterward. Lawmakers also should explore ways to loosen the laws prohibiting unbalanced precincts from being used in a recount, she said. 

She's also asked lawmakers to adjust statutes to allow some audits to begin during the canvassing process. 

“Had they done this prior to November, after clerks and I asked them to for more than a year, they could have pre-emptively debunked many of the lies that have since attacked our democracy," Benson said.