Benson: Michigan's election results could be known within 24 hours

Sarah Rahal Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Detroit — Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said Tuesday night she now expects it could only be 24 hours for a full tabulation of the battleground state.

The delay will be accounting for its largest jurisdiction, Detroit, which has tabulated 120,000 absentee ballots in the past 13 hours, Benson said at 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Benson had previously estimated it could take up to 80 hours to tabulate Michigan's results. 

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson updates the media during a news conference at TCF Center in Detroit on the progress of ballot counting on Election Day..

About 3.26 million absentee ballots have been accounted for, and it is anticipated that 2 million to 2.5 million more people voted in person on Election Day.

"I'm confident that we'll have more of an update for Detroit in the morning," Benson said at Ford Field Tuesday. "And so we usually make estimates based on when they're done because it's going to take them the longest because they have the most balance. We know a lot of other jurisdictions are speeding through their tabulation so I expect will have a very clear picture, if not a final picture, of history in the next 24 hours."

She said an additional 28,000 people registered to vote in-person Tuesday, adding: "There’s no question that today was a success."

"I'm really here tonight to ask you all to be patient," she said. "We're going to count every single vote in the state of Michigan, no matter how long it takes, no matter what candidates say, we're going to work methodically and meticulously to count every single valid ballot. And that, and only that, will determine who wins every race on the ballot in the state of Michigan."

Benson's turnout expectations put the state "in line" to break the record turnout from 2008 of 5.08 million votes, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said earlier Tuesday.

"I'd be stunned if this wasn't a record turnout," she added.

Benson’s office said Tuesday evening that absentee ballot counting was running smoothly and efficiently, with the operations in Detroit and Oakland County running more quickly than anticipated.

“Because those are two of the largest counting boards in the state, it’s great news that they’re having success today,” said Benson's spokesman, Jake Rollow.

“We’ve really done everything we could to make it feasible for results to be done as soon as possible."

Across the state on Tuesday, some polling places saw lines when they opened after 7 a.m. However, there were smaller groups waiting to vote in the early afternoon.

Voters were choosing whether to give President Donald Trump another four-year term or replace him with Democrat Joe Biden, the former vice president. Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes in 2016.

If there's not a record turnout Tuesday, Whitmer, a co-chairwoman of Biden's campaign, indicated the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic would likely be a factor.

During a Tuesday afternoon briefing, Whitmer took questions from reporters on the election, a position in a potential Biden administration and the rising number of coronavirus cases in the state.

The country needs a "national strategy" to combat the virus, she contended while noting she is changing her own Thanksgiving plans during the pandemic.

"My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, and I love to host," Whitmer said. "I love to cook. I love to bring everyone together. We're not doing any of it this year. We're just not going to. Because it's just too dangerous."

Michigan reported a record number of COVID-19 confirmations last week: 20,154. Hospitalizations tied to the virus are also on the rise.

As for whether the governor could leave the state to take a job in a Biden administration if he's elected, she appeared to nix that idea. Whitmer, whom Biden considered as a potential running mate before choosing Sen. Kamala Harris, referenced a comment from former Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard, saying there is no cabinet position "that rivals" being governor of Michigan.

"I will continue to be close to a Biden administration," Whitmer said. "But I don't have any desire or intent to go to a cabinet.

"I have every intent to stay right here and get this state back to work and make sure our economy is thriving, but first and foremost, we have to get our arms around this health care crisis. That's what I'm going to work with the Biden administration on first."

cmauger@detroitnews.com

Staff Writer Beth LeBlanc contributed.