Michigan's elections panel certifies results of August primary election

·3 min read

Michigan's state elections panel unanimously certified the recent August primary election Friday after county canvassing boards signed off on the results with few hiccups.

The vote marked the first by the Board of State Canvassers in a statewide election since the 2020 presidential contest saw allies of former President Donald Trump urge Republican members to refuse to certify the election. A former GOP canvasser received national attention for resisting that pressure and joining the board's two Democratic members to certify the election that year.

The vote to certify the most recent August primary election also received bipartisan support. Republican canvasser Richard Houskamp supported the motion to certify along with Democratic members Mary Ellen Gurewitz and Jeannette Bradshaw.

Tony Daunt, the board's Republican chair, was absent due to a family emergency, Gurewitz said at the start of the meeting.

Ahead of the state board's vote Friday, county canvassing boards — made up of two Democratic and two Republican members nominated by local political parties — reviewed election materials from the primary to confirm the results before certifying them.

The process went smoothly in Michigan's 83 counties, according to county clerk's offices. Members of both parties signed off on the results.

Before certifying the results, Michigan elections director Jonathan Brater said that the primary pointed to a handful of issues in an election that otherwise ran relatively smoothly.

In Wayne County, a last-minute debate over whether to count a batch of three dozen ballots discovered in Ecorse after election night injected some last-minute drama, but the board ultimately counted those votes and unanimously certified the results of the primary.

Brater said he expects to see high voter turnout in the November election based on voter participation in the primary.

"We had about 2.1 million people voting. That's almost as high as we saw in August 2018 in the last gubernatorial primary where we had 2.2 million people voting and in that one of course we had contested governor primaries on both sides," he said. "So in light of that, I think we’re probably looking at a high turnout for November."

Just over half of the voters who participated in the primary cast an absentee ballot, Brater said.

More: Uncounted primary ballots found in back room of Ecorse clerk's office after election

A spotlight on Detroit 2 years ago

When the board met to certify the results of the last statewide primary election, canvassers confronted widespread recording challenges in how Detroit election workers tracked absentee ballots cast by the city's voters.

In the August 2020 primary, more than 70% of the city's precincts recorded an imbalance with the number of absentee ballots recorded as cast in the poll books and the number of ballots counted without an explanation. The city saw a surge in absentee voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Brater told the state canvassers at the time that returned absentee ballots were not consistently recorded as received, which contributed to the large number of out-of-balance precincts.

The canvassers sought a state takeover of the city's elections, which Brater called a practical impossibility. But following concerns about Detroit's administration of the August 2020 primary, the Secretary of State's Office announced a partnership with the Detroit city clerk to provide support for the presidential election.

The city's most recent primary saw a marked improvement in balancing precincts and recording explanations for any mismatches between the poll books and the ballots counted.

"For August 2022 in Wayne County, 98% of the precincts were fully balanced compared to 56% in 2020 and also in Detroit 98% of the precincts were fully balanced or explained compared to 26%," Brater said. "So obviously that’s a massive improvement."

Clara Hendrickson fact-checks Michigan issues and politics as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Make a tax-deductible contribution to support her work at bit.ly/freepRFA. Contact her at chendrickson@freepress.com or 313-296-5743. Follow her on Twitter @clarajanehen.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan elections panel certifies August primary results