Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer give an update on COVID-19 | Gov. Whitmer office photo

State leaders held a joint press conference Wednesday to encourage voters to cast their ballots, either going in-person or dropping them off at their clerk’s office by Election Day, and stressed that the election will be secure.

With less than a week before Tuesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was joined by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel.

More than 3.25 million people have requested absentee ballots and 2.4 million have returned their ballots, Benson said. Officials have stressed that it’s too late to mail your absentee ballot with U.S. Postal Service delays, so dropping it off in person is the best way to ensure that it will count.

Because of the record number of early voters and another 2 million voters expected to vote in person Tuesday, Benson and Whitmer both stressed that election results will likely not be fully tallied for days following the election.

Because Michigan law only allows some clerks to process ballots before Election Day, but does not allow votes to be counted ahead of the election, it could take much longer than normal to count the millions of ballots.

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“Our voters believe in the integrity of our elections. They know their vote will be counted,” Benson said. 

President Donald Trump, who voted in-person for this election, but frequently votes by mail, has repeatedly slammed Benson for urging Michiganders to vote by absentee ballots during the pandemic, calling the process fraudulent.

Whitmer says these claims are “unsupported, they are incorrect and not based in fact at all.”

“Unfortunately, I think we see efforts to undermine what has always been a system that has worked,” Whitmer said. 

Whitmer, Benson and Nessel have also been preparing in the case of increased voter intimidation or violence at the polls next week.

“All Michiganders have the right to vote without fear of intimidation,” Whitmer said. 

On Oct. 16, Benson filed a directive banning the open carry of firearms within 100 feet of polling places, clerks’ offices or locations where absentee ballots are counted. 

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But a lawsuit was filed and a judge ruled last week that the order was unconstitutional. Nessel said her office filed an appeal Wednesday morning and it would be resolved by Election Day.

“Irrespective of the outcome of that case, the fact is we know the polls will be safe and secure,” Nessel said. “We don’t intend to have law enforcement at the polls … but they will be nearby in the case that there are any sort of issues whatsoever.”

Along with increased concern over safety and election security, the ongoing pandemic has been a concern for state leaders.

COVID-19 cases are again on the rise in Michigan, especially within the last few weeks. 

As of Wednesday, the state reports 167,545 Michiganders have tested positive for COVID-19 and 7,257 people in the state have died. 

Whitmer says she is concerned about upcoming events that could potentially spread the virus to large groups.

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“I have a lot of concerns going into this election, not necessarily about the election itself, but all of the activities that are going to happen between now and the election,” Whitmer said.

One of the events she said she is concerned about is the University of Michigan and Michigan State University football game in Ann Arbor Saturday.

Now is not the time to drop our guard, Whitmer said. 

“We are here because of the work that we have done and because we have worn masks and we have pushed our numbers down. But they are very concerning right now,” she added. 

Each of the state leaders continued to stress the importance to wear masks and avoid gathering in large crowds, and if any person sees misconduct at polling places, Nessel encourages them to report the incident to law enforcement.