11/24/2020 News Update - Thank you from Director Brater and BOE Closed Thursday and Friday

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November 24, 2020

Thank you from Director Brater


Dear Clerks and Staff:

Yesterday, the Board of State Canvassers certified the results of the November 3, 2020 election. Although much work still remains, the board’s certification makes results official—an important milestone in bringing this year’s elections to a close. I’m writing to share my thoughts, many of which I shared with the board yesterday, on your work this year.

The board’s certification is a testament to the excellence, integrity, and professionalism with which local election officials carried out elections throughout the year—not only in November, but in the months and elections prior.

More than five and a half million Michiganders cast ballots in the November election—a record in our state. They have chosen candidates for President and United States Senate, fourteen members of Congress, and more than a hundred Representatives in the state Legislature. They have voted in favor of two constitutional amendments, chosen two Supreme Court Justices, and elected eight members of statewide education and university boards, in addition to voting for thousands of local offices and proposals.

Record-setting civic participation in the midst of a global pandemic is inspiring. Voters should be commended for making their voices heard this November, and political parties and civic groups deserve a great amount of credit for their contributions as well.  

The certified elections in counties across our state are a labor of love—performed for our state by Michigan’s 1,600 election clerks and their staff. It is an effort that is unprecedented both in scope and in difficulty. Long before most were giving any thought to this month’s elections, clerks and their staff were hard at work preparing for the new responsibilities they would shoulder in support of our new state constitutional voting rights.  

It’s been quite a year. On the night of our March presidential primary, the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Michigan. Since that night, our election officials have grappled with challenge after challenge to operate an election system not built for social distancing, not equipped for unexpected absences, and not friendly to service disruptions. Into May, that meant trying to canvass the March election and conducting an all-mail May election when public health guidance for combating the virus was still emerging.  

Clerks then managed to find new election equipment, replace poll workers with many of their regulars unavailable, and move voting locations so they could hold the August state primary with both polling places and a large volume of absentee ballots. Election clerks managed to administer yet another successful election under extremely difficult conditions.

November was the greatest challenge of all. Election workers have been on a marathon to ensure our elections can continue to run. The months leading up to November 3 required, among many other things, printing, testing, and distributing millions of ballots, serving voters continuously by mail and in person, hiring and training poll workers, and preparing for and running a busy Election Day, all in the middle of a pandemic.

Election “Day” was a long one in many communities, as we expected. Despite meticulous preparation, clerks knew the sheer volume of absentee ballots would mean going late into the night, and at least the following day, to finish counting all ballots. They got that done too—with barely time for a nap before county canvasses began. That final two-week push, running on fumes, culminated in the successful canvass of the county election results prior to state certification.

None of this just “happened.” Election work is essential, so on paper the work has to get done no matter what. In the real world, that meant that election workers sacrificed continuously and tirelessly to staff election offices in person when many had the option of working from home. For clerks, evenings and weekends off became a thing of the past. At times, even working seven days and nights a week there were scarcely hours in the day.

At the Bureau, we’ve spoken to many of you who have overcome any challenge imaginable—budgets slashed, colleagues sidelined and buildings closed, even friends and family members lost and little time to mourn. Other clerks, on the ballot themselves, have endured election defeats and still continued doing their civic duty.

Few see or well understand the dedication it takes to run an election. That means that clerks typically only hear from members of the public who aren’t happy. It means, despite your constant dedication, you have sometimes been the subject of unfair criticism, abuse, and even threats. I cannot thank election workers enough for the sacrifice, courage, and commitment to our state that they showed this year.

You have achieved what is, at the very least, the greatest accomplishment in election administration in recent memory. You understand better than anyone the importance of the work that went into getting us to the point where elections could be held, canvassed, and certified. The description here cannot begin to do justice to your efforts throughout the year and beyond.

I am also immensely grateful to the staff of the Bureau of Elections for their tireless efforts in support of this election, and also for the tremendous support we received from the entire Department of State, other state agencies, and federal partners. All of this work was also essential in supporting the achievements of our election officials this year.

There is still much to be done, including recounts, post-election audits, and the reporting of official precinct-level results. As we move into what I hope will be a restful holiday for all, I am thankful for your incredible work this year, and I hope you will have the opportunity to reflect and take pride in this historic accomplishment.



In this issue:

  • Letter from Director Brater
  • BOE Closed Thursday and Friday



Happy Thanksgiving

BOE Closed Thursday and Friday

The Bureau of Elections will
be closed this Thursday
and Friday for the
Thanksgiving Holiday.
We hope you enjoy a well
deserved break to enjoy
time with your family and
friends this holiday.


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