Michigan

Snapshot: Michigan has a middling score for ease of voting, meeting three of our seven benchmarks, but it has a good score for ballot counting efficiency and security, meeting seven of our eight benchmarks. But some election deniers are running for key state positions this November.

Ease of Voting

Some measures to expand access
3 out of 7 benchmarks

Ballot Security

Many measures to ensure accuracy and security
7 out of 8 benchmarks

What Politicians Say

Several responses that undermined the 2020 election
2 out of 4 benchmarks

Michigan was one of the key states in former President Donald Trump’s bid to overturn the results of the 2020 elections. Trump and his allies filed nine lawsuits to halt vote counting in the state, throw out certain ballots likely to favor Democrats or block certification of its electors. It was also one of four states at the center of a Texas lawsuit before the Supreme Court.

Since the 2020 election, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has vetoed Republican bills that would have changed elections laws, including proposals to eliminate an alternative ballot option for voters who forgot their ID and to require hundreds of thousands of voters to take certain steps to remain registered, among other things.

Lawmakers attempted to pass some of the changes through a petition drive, but pulled it from submission for the November ballot amid concerns about the signature-gathering process. Whitmer faces Republican nominee Tudor Dixon, who repeatedly tweeted after the 2020 election that it was stolen through “obvious” and “sloppy” voter fraud.

Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who also resisted efforts to overturn the election, is running for re-election against Republican Kristina Karamo, who gained notoriety pushing debunked voter fraud claims.

Another election denier, Matt DePerno, is running as a Republican for attorney general.


Ease of Voting

Is the state making it easy for eligible voters to register and cast a ballot?
Met 0 out of 0 benchmarks
How Michigan compares to other states
Michigan
Other states
← Easier to vote
Harder →
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
Number of total benchmarks met

In 2018, Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved Proposal 3, which amended the state constitution to automatically register voters getting a driver’s license, create no-excuse vote-by-mail and allow voters to register on Election Day.

More than 3.3 million voters took advantage of mail-in voting during the 2020 election, setting a state record.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Benson, the secretary of state, directed the state to send applications to vote by mail to all registered voters in Michigan. Then-President Donald Trump attacked the decision, but state judges found that Benson acted legally.

Since the 2020 election, Whitmer vetoed 10 bills from the Republican-controlled state legislature that would remove dead voters from the rolls more frequently, bar election officials from mass mailing absentee ballot applications, and tighten voter ID requirements, among other things.

To get around Whitmer, Republican lawmakers attempted an unusual legislative mechanism known as a petition initiative that would enact many of the changes she vetoed.

But backers of the Secure MI Vote initiative said they pulled it at the last minute after discovering petition-gatherers had submitted thousands of fraudulent signatures. The measure could end up on the 2024 ballot instead.


Ballot Security

Is the state following best practices to ensure ballot counting is accurate and timely?
Met 0 out of 0 benchmarks
How Michigan compares to other states
Michigan
Other states
← More secure
Less secure →
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
Number of total benchmarks met

In October 2020, Whitmer signed a bill passed by Republican lawmakers that allowed some local elections administrators to begin processing, but not counting, mail-in ballots, the day before the election.

Still, the law did not go as far as some elections clerks hoped, and the large number of mail ballots in 2020 led to delays in counting votes, which provided grist for conspiracy theories.

As in other states, Trump had a lead in votes early in the night because more of his votes came from smaller rural areas and people voting on Election Day, but Biden gained the lead as ballots from urban areas and mail voting were counted, a phenomenon known as the “blue shift.”

Elections administrators in Michigan have asked lawmakers to increase funding to respond to the increase in popularity of vote-by-mail, allow mail ballots to be processed even earlier, create an early in-person voting option, require election audits be conducted in public, and allow them to remove dead people from the voter rolls more promptly.

So far, none of those measures have been passed into law. In a veto message on a bill that would have made it easier to remove dead voters from the rolls, Whitmer said she would be willing to sign a narrower bill.


How Politicians Responded to the 2020 Election

What did the state do in the aftermath of Trump's defeat?
Met 0 out of 0 benchmarks
How Michigan compares to other states
Michigan
Other states
← Fewer efforts to undermine 2020 election
More →
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
Number of total benchmarks met

Whitmer is running for re-election in November against Dixon, who has called for more restrictions on voting, such as tighter voter ID, saying Democrats who oppose it want to “cheat in an election (again).”

Karamo, the Republican nominee for secretary of state, falsely claimed to have witnessed election fraud and misconduct as a poll watcher in Detroit.

An affidavit from Karamo was included in the Texas lawsuit seeking to have the Supreme Court bar certification of Michigan and other states, but elections officials say that Karamo misunderstood standard procedures and no evidence has been offered to back up her claims.

Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel faces DePerno, who filed a lawsuit alleging voter fraud in Antrim County that was frequently cited in conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Systems machines. A judge dismissed the lawsuit in May of 2021, noting that the state had already conducted a full audit of the 2020 election.

A 55-page report from a Republican-led legislative committee also rebutted DePerno’s claims, saying it would be a “complete waste of time to consider them further.”

Both Karamo and DePerno have been endorsed by Trump and MyPillow Inc Chief Executive Officer Mike Lindell, who has promoted conspiracy theories about the election.

In addition, three of the state’s seven Republican representatives objected to the certification of electors from Arizona and Pennsylvania, and four signed an amicus brief in the Texas lawsuit.


Read the full methodology
Story by: Ryan Teague Beckwith and Bill Allison
Graphics by: Paul Murray, Allison McCartney and Mira Rojanasakul
With assistance by: Rachael Dottle, Marie Patino, Jenny Zhang, Gregory Korte, Romy Varghese, Vincent Del Giudice, Nathan Crooks, Margaret Newkirk, Shruti Date Singh, David Welch, Elise Young, Dina Bass, Brendan Walsh, Carey Goldberg and Maria Wood
Editors: Wendy Benjaminson, Wes Kosova, Alex Tribou and Yue Qiu
Photo editors: Eugene Reznik, Marisa Gertz and Maria Wood
Photo credits: Getty Images, Bloomberg and AP Photo