This is an exciting time to be a voter in America. Presidential election years are always packed with emotion, which is understandable when the seat in the oval office is up for grabs. People pay attention and get engaged. It doesn’t get more American than that.
In Michigan, we’re seeing indications everywhere that voter interest is up. We had a record-breaking turnout of 2.5 million voters for the Presidential Primary in March that shattered the previous record of 1.9 million voters in 1972. And absentee voting numbers are also up compared to the same time period four years ago.
Will Election Day be busy? That’s one of the most common questions I hear. Voter turnout is hard to predict but I can tell you that we’re seeing a lot of interest online at Michigan.gov/vote. People visit that site to find their voting location and view their sample ballot ahead of time so they can be prepared when they enter the voting booth. My advice is to do the same. A smart voter is an educated voter. Plus, if you know before you go, lines will move quicker and voting will be a smoother process.
There’s been a lot of talk about election security and the integrity of the process. Nothing is more important than the security of our elections. As Michigan’s secretary of state, my job is to provide oversight and help safeguard your ballot so you can enter the voting booth this Tuesday with confidence that your vote counts.
To give you that confidence, one of the first things we did was clean up our Qualified Voter File of registered voters. In six years, we’ve removed the names of 889,000 people, including those who moved out of state, died or are non-citizens. This list is backed up daily and clerks have an additional paper backup on file for added security. We take the integrity of this list very seriously because on Election Day, its validity helps us protect the Constitutional principle of one person, one vote.
In addition, unlike most other states, we conduct elections through a system known as “home rule” where our 1,603 local clerks actually conduct the elections. Counties and state government provide oversight and assistance. Some people may believe there is a giant computer in Lansing where election information is vulnerable but that’s not the case. With home rule, local clerks tabulate results and securely deliver them to their respective county government. This decentralized process with numerous checks and balances helps ensure the integrity of our elections.
Michigan is currently recognized as one of the top states for administration of elections and that is largely due to the series of checks and balances built into every turn of our processes. For instance, tabulating machines are extensively tested publicly in every precinct and are secured before the election. They are never connected to the Internet. Paper ballots are used statewide in every precinct so results can be verified if challenged. We’ve conducted 1,200 post-election audits since 2013 to ensure integrity. We provide video training for the clerks and 30,000 poll workers across Michigan. And for two weeks after every election, counties canvass results for each precinct which is then confirmed by a bi-partisan board. To ensure integrity, results are then re-checked by a state bi-partisan canvass board.
We do even more than this, but you get the idea. I like to say our elections process has suspenders and a belt. It is a process that works. This Election Day, you can be confident your vote will count. Please remember to vote on November 8.
Ruth Johnson, Michigan Secretary of State.