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Statewide election audit process affirms presidential election outcome

Demonstrates excellence of local election officials, 
accuracy of vote-counting machines

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced today that a statewide election audit process affirmed Michigan’s vote-counting machines are accurate and Joe Biden won the state’s Nov. 3, 2020 presidential election.

“This statewide audit process affirms what election officials on both sides of the aisle have said since November – that Michigan’s election was conducted securely and fairly, and the results accurately reflect the will of the voters. I congratulate our election clerks for carrying out the most successful election in our state’s history, and thank them for affirming the integrity of our elections by participating in this process,” said Benson. “The work of elected leaders now is to tell voters the truth and move forward with nonpartisan election policy to advance the will of Michigan voters, who have demonstrated clearly and unequivocally that they want our elections to continue to be secure, strong and accessible.”

Hundreds of Republican, Democratic and nonpartisan municipal and county clerks from more than 1,300 local jurisdictions – more than had ever participated in such an audit anywhere – took part in Michigan’s statewide auditing exercise, hand counting more than 18,000 ballots that were randomly selected throughout the state.

In the hand count, President Biden received more votes than former president Donald Trump, and the percentage of votes for each candidate was within fractions of a percentage point of machine-tabulated totals. In the state’s three largest counties, each of which uses a different voting machine vendor, the audit results were also all within one percentage point of the November results. Although a random sample of 18,000 ballots would not be expected to exactly match the percentages of votes cast for candidates out of all 5.5 million ballots, the closeness in percentages between the hand-reviewed ballots and the machine-tabulated totals provides strong additional evidence of the accuracy of the machine count.

In the statewide sample, Biden received votes on 50 percent of all ballots reviewed while Trump received 48 percent. In Wayne County, which uses Dominion machines, Biden received 68 percent, while Trump received 31 percent. In Oakland County, which uses Hart machines, Biden received 57 percent while Trump received 41 percent, and in Macomb County, which uses ES&S machines, Biden received 44 percent and Trump received 54 percent.

The audit exercise was conducted by generating a statewide manifest that included the number of ballots cast in every jurisdiction, and then using a randomly generated (by rolling 10-sided dice) 20-digit number to select 18,162 of them. Clerks then retrieved ballots that had been selected in their jurisdictions and shared if it had a vote for president and, if so, who it was for. Clerks retrieved a total of 18,084 ballots total. Twenty-one clerks did not retrieve 78 ballots in their jurisdictions, meaning the sample was 78 ballots short of a complete sample. For this reason, the audit is being considered a pilot exercise.

Secretary Benson’s Advancing the Vote, Protecting Democracy legislative agenda would require a statewide risk-limiting audit to be carried out prior to state certification of the election – which would both speed and simplify the process, as clerks would be able to retrieve the randomly selected ballots while the election canvass in ongoing. Current law does not allow such audits to take place until after certification. Candidates can request hand recounts of all ballots prior to certification, but neither presidential candidate chose to do so in 2020.

The Bureau of Elections is compiling a full report of the results, which will be published upon completion. Risk-limiting audits are considered the gold standard of post-election audits and provide an extra layer of security when partnered with the traditional audit methods already utilized by election officials. The Bureau of Elections and local clerks across the state began piloting the audits in 2018 and 2019, and also conducted a pilot of the 2020 presidential primary. The process was conducted with the assistance of VotingWorks, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. It also drew upon the advice of the Election Security Advisory Commission and an audit task force composed of election clerks.