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Michigan’s secretary of state on the process of counting votes

Former Vice President Joe Biden was declared the winner of Michigan’s electoral votes Wednesday evening by the Associated Press. Although some votes are still being counted, Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s secretary of state, said she has been impressed by the efficiency of election workers in delivering accurate results. Benson joins Judy Woodruff to discuss Michigan’s process and progress.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We turn now to a key official in a key state, where there are already lawsuits and where Joe Biden was just declared the winner this evening by the Associated Press.

    Jocelyn Benson is Michigan's secretary of state. And she joins us from Detroit.

    Ms. Benson, thank you so much for talking with us.

    We know the AP, within the hour, called Michigan for Joe Biden, but there are still votes being counted. So, where does the counting stand right now?

  • Jocelyn Benson:

    We believe we are close to seeing a full and complete unofficial tabulation in the state.

    We certainly are on track to have those full results tonight. We are in the final stages in some of our larger jurisdictions of wrapping things up, which is really a success story, by the way. We thought it would take us much longer. But the efficiency and the meticulous work of our election workers has really put us in a position where we're proud to be able to have near complete, if not fully complete results in the next few hours to report out.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we have just heard some of the folks who keep track of how ballot counting goes, and aware there are difficulties, speaking about some of the challenges accounting these so-called naked ballots.

    What problems have you had in Michigan as you have been counting?

  • Jocelyn Benson:

    I think, certainly, a lot of our problems were dealt with prior to Election Day with regards to just litigation around ballots — and we saw this in a number of different states — and also the challenges with the Postal Service and the unreliability there.

    So we were really focused on making sure every vote got in by 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday and that voters who were voting absentee for the first time knew the rules, particularly the importance of signing and validating their identity on the envelope in which the absentee ballot was placed.

    And then, on Election Day itself, smooth sailing. There were some efforts to misinformed voters about their rights. We were able to quickly debunk those.

    And now, here we are, after the polls closing, tabulating all the votes. The biggest challenge has been misinformation. And we always knew that was going to be the case, that from the minute the polls closed to the we would have that full tabulation of the result, there would be significant efforts to sow seeds of doubt about the integrity of our elections.

    But we are here to say that the elections are secure and that the results, once announced, will be a full and accurate reflection of the will of the people.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we know that the Trump campaign has already filed a lawsuit to stop the counting in Michigan. What effect does that have on your work?

  • Jocelyn Benson:

    Well, the count has continued.

    And, look, we're confident in our processes and the transparency and the security and methodical nature of our work. And, because of that, I have said that I want to be abundantly clear. No campaign, no politician, no political party, no candidate is going to stop the count here in Michigan.

    We are committing to getting this right, to making sure it's accurate, and really being — trying to stay above the political fray to really deliver results to Michiganders all across the state, that, regardless of how they voted or who they voted for, they could trust and have faith in the accuracy of those results.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I'm asking you, of course, because of that lawsuit, and the fact that the president himself is saying — since the election has taken place, he's saying: I have won Michigan.

    So he's put that statement out there.

  • Jocelyn Benson:

    Well, yes, we fully expected and we know candidates can say things that at any point in the election cycle.

    But candidates don't get to determine who wins an election. The voters do, and the election workers who will work to tabulate every valid vote and ensure every valid vote and only valid votes are counted.

    That's the work we're doing here in Michigan. That's what democracy requires. That's how elections work. And so we're continuing to do that work at a very efficient speed that I'm very inspired by, as workers have really been committed to this work.

    We recognize the importance of our state. We recognize the importance of getting this right. And, again, when we have those full tabulated results to announce, I am confident and have full faith that there will be a full and accurate reflection of the will of our voters that I hope everyone does respect.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Really important for the American people to hear this.

    Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, thank you so much.

  • Jocelyn Benson:

    Thank you.

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