Oct 6, 2020

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Press Conference Transcript October 6

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Press Conference Transcript October 6
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsMichigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Press Conference Transcript October 6

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s October 6 press conference. She announced that mandatory mask orders will continue and addressed the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling about the emergency orders put in place during the pandemic. Read the full transcript of her news briefing speech here.

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (05:41)
Good afternoon. Today is Tuesday, October 6th. I am joined today by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Delta Township clerk, Mary Clark.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (05:51)
I want to start with an update on our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the past seven months, I’ve been making the tough decisions that took us from a state with the third-highest number of COVID cases per million back in March and April to now we are the 33rd highest in September. We’ve made incredible strides in this state. We have one of the best economic recoveries in the nation too. And studies have concluded that those actions saved thousands of lives. But after the Republican-led legislature sued to take away my executive authority this past Friday, the Michigan state Supreme court struck down the statute under which I had issued several of these executive orders so we can save lives and protect Michigan families and communities and businesses and our frontline workers. As a result of this action, of the court’s action and the legislature’s action, our COVID-19 cases could likely go up. There will be uncertainty, there’ll be disruption and possibly greater risk to our economy, to our loved ones, possibly more people quarantined and more fatalities. We’ve seen that happen elsewhere.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (07:12)
What this ruling does not mean is that the orders I issued violated the law. Although I disagree with the court’s conclusion, they held the law, the 1945 law unconstitutional, meaning that that legislature 75 years ago didn’t have the authority to extend these types of powers to a governor. The court made it clear that I had interpreted this law correctly and utilized my powers. What this ruling also does not mean is that all the protections that we put in place are gone. That’s just not the case. We have additional authority that I will use to continue to protect our families from the spread of this virus.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (07:58)
Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services issued an emergency order that is restricting gathering sizes and requiring face coverings in public spaces, that should sound familiar because that’s what we’ve been doing. We’re going to keep doing it because that’s what the CDC and the best scientists all agree on is our best tool in this moment. While the Supreme Court has spoken, and while I vehemently disagree with the conclusion, now is the time for the Republicans in the legislature to come back to town and start showing that they take this crisis seriously, too. I’m ready to work with the legislature, but I’m never going to negotiate when it comes to doing the right thing and protecting the people’s health. This is a deadly virus that still poses a very real threat. It Still prays on our most vulnerable populations. As your governor, I will continue to use every tool at my disposal to combat COVID-19.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (09:02)
I’m here in the Capitol today, but the legislature is not. That’s why I’m hoping that they will cancel their October recess and get back to work. The first order of business that they should undertake when they return is to codify my executive order on unemployment, because without Swift action, hundreds of thousands of people in our state, hundreds of thousands of hardworking people who head up families and need to put food on the table will lose their unemployment benefits if the legislature doesn’t act in the next few days. These are the men and women who’ve lost a job and were counting on expanded benefits to put food on the table for their kids.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (09:47)
When it comes to fighting COVID-19, we cannot escape the reality that we are all in this together. So my fellow Michiganders, here’s what I need you to do: Keep wearing your mask, keep your physical distance to six feet from people you don’t live with, and wash your hands frequently. Taking this action is essential to keeping our small businesses and our schools open, because COVID-19 didn’t stop being a threat just because of a court ruling, or because of we’re tired of it, or because the legislature’s not in town. We cannot squander the sacrifice that we’ve already made to get here, and that’s why we all have to keep doing our part. You can take action that protects the brave men and women who stay on the front lines so the rest of us can be safe. I’m talking about the healthcare workers and the grocery store clerks. I’m talking about all of our first responders and our utility workers and sanitation workers, people who take care of our kids. Taking this virus seriously will help protect us all as we prepare to vote in November, or every day between now and November, which you can do.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (11:09)
This has been an unprecedented year for elections in Michigan and across the country. Since the pandemic hit our state over six months ago, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and her team have been working around the clock to ensure every Michigander can vote safely and clerks and municipalities have been doing the same. Thanks to their hard work and the hard work of so many like Mary Clark, who’s going to speak to us, we have had two historic elections in Michigan in the midst of a global pandemic. The August 4th statewide primary resulted in a record-breaking turnout, where two-and-a-half million Michiganders participated. It was a record for an August election, with 1.6 million voting by absentee. It shattered the previous record for total absentee ballots cast. This was-

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (12:03)
… for total absentee ballots cast. This was a result of collaboration between local, state, and federal officials, coupled with a sustained voter education effort to inform people of their rights, and how to stay safe, and how they can exercise both.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (12:19)
This is exactly the type of hard work and planning that Secretary Benson and leaders across our state are putting into our November election, where we expect another record breaking turnout.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (12:32)
Today I’m signing a bill to help ensure every vote is counted on election day, Senate Bill 757 will amend the Michigan election law to allow clerks in cities and townships with a population of at least 25,000 to begin processing absentee ballots prior to election day for the November 3rd, 2020 general election only. This year, millions of Michiganders will take advantage of their constitutional right to vote absentee for the first time due to this pandemic.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (13:06)
The bill ensures that clerks will notify voters of any reason that their vote won’t be counted within 48 hours. Giving voters the chance to solve problems with their absentee ballot is essential, and it is critical to ensuring that every voter can exercise their constitutional right to vote absentee, and to make sure that their vote counts.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (13:29)
Originally at this press conference, I was also supposed to be signing Senate Bill 117, which would allow service members, our military, and their spouses to return their ballots to local clerks electronically if they’re unable to do so in person. But for some reason, the leaders, the Republican leaders in the legislature chose not to send me this bill yet. I’m not sure what’s going on there, but this is crucial for our brave folks and their families who serve in the military.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (14:02)
Elections are no time to play partisan games, our brave service members and their families put their lives on the line for us, and they deserve leaders who are going to help them vote. It’s time for the legislature to get these bills to my desk. We’ve got a lot of work to do.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (14:20)
In a democracy, everyone eligible, and every vote that is eligibly cast needs to be counted. And the will of the people must prevail. So whether you mail in your absentee ballot, or you drop it off to your local clerk, or you vote in person on election day, your vote will be counted on November third. Voting is the most important way we can use all of our voices, raise our voices, and decide elections, decide where our country is headed in our state and our local governments as well.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (14:55)
Michigan voters request your ballot, fill it out and drop it in the mail by October 19th, or take it to your local clerk’s office. Your voice will be heard in November, and the person who will make sure that that happens as our Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

Jocelyn Benson: (15:27)
Hello, and thank you Governor Whitmer for inviting me to join you here today. Yesterday we announced that 2.7 million registered voters in our state have already requested to have their ballots mailed to them this fall, and our clerk is doing extraordinary work to meet this extraordinary requests from our voters have already responded to 2.6 million of those voters and sent them their ballots.

Jocelyn Benson: (15:56)
And in response to that, nearly 400,000 voters in Michigan have already voted and returned to their ballots to be counted. And four weeks from today, those ballots will begin being counted. And voters across the state will also have an option if they haven’t already voted to vote in person at their local precinct. We are on track for record breaking turnout in our state this fall, where I anticipate more citizens, more voters will cast ballots than ever before in our state’s history.

Jocelyn Benson: (16:28)
And that’s truly remarkable in the midst of this global pandemic, that citizens want to vote. And they’ve been demonstrating that at every election we’ve had this year, each of which has broken records as you heard from the governor, but each of which has demonstrated also that our system of running elections here in Michigan is safe and secure.

Jocelyn Benson: (16:49)
What I want to tell voters today is that as we stand here, four weeks out, make a plan to vote if you haven’t already. And you have options this year, you can request that your ballot be mailed to you online at michigan.gov/vote, or by going to your clerk’s office and requesting your ballot there. You can vote from home and return your ballot one of three ways, at your local drop box, at your local clerk’s office, or through the mail. And if you do choose to return your ballot through the mail, please do it within the next few weeks, but no later than two weeks prior to election day, or October 19th. At that point, if you still have your ballot, please use a local drop box, or drop it off in person at your local clerk’s office.

Jocelyn Benson: (17:31)
You can also vote in-person today at your local clerk’s office. And you’ll have that option available through the Monday prior to November 3rd. And then of course, four weeks from today on November 3rd, if you haven’t yet cast your vote, you’ll have the option of doing so in-person at your local precinct.

Jocelyn Benson: (17:49)
And you can find all the information you need to know on all of those options and more at michigan.gov/vote, where you can also check registration, register to vote, and track your ballot if you have chosen to have it delivered to you, and are returning it through your local drop box, at your clerk’s office, or through the mail.

Jocelyn Benson: (18:09)
I’m also here today to express my gratitude to both the governor and the members of our legislature, who are recognizing that it is truly a new day for democracy in Michigan. These numbers that we’ve seen, not just this fall, but in our August primary, and our May local elections as well, this is not going to be unique to 2020. We are indeed in a new normal for our elections and for our democracy, a modern normal that will ensure that citizens maintain these choices that are now enshrined in our state constitution for every election here to come. And that’s why it’s so important that we, as I and clerks have been asking our legislature to do since I took office, update our laws to reflect this new normal. And today I’m proud to stand with the governor as she signs into law legislation that is an important step in the direction that we all must go in to embrace the will of the voters, and ensure our democracy is one that they expect.

Jocelyn Benson: (19:07)
The first of course is allowing clerks one extra day in some communities to begin opening envelopes and preparing ballot sent through the mail, or voted early, to be counted the next day, November 3rd. This is a step in the right direction, and it will able some communities to begin processing and preparing ballots to be counted the day before, a few hours before, about 10 hours before.

Jocelyn Benson: (19:28)
Importantly, this does not change our statewide estimation as to when results will be announced this fall, because by and large clerks will still begin processing, and every clerk will begin tabulating these ballots that have been sent, or returned through the mail, or voted early, on election day itself, meaning it’s not until 7:00 AM that all ballots can be tabulated. And that’s why we still expect that it will be the Friday of that week, election week, that we can expect every ballot will be tabulated. Now it may be sooner, but we want to manage those expectations. And, and we want all our voters, all watching our elections to be patient as our clerks work methodically, carefully, and securely to tabulate every ballot and ensure that the results of our elections once announced are an accurate reflection of the will of the people.

Jocelyn Benson: (20:20)
The other provisions that will be signed into law today are also a step in the right direction. Most importantly, this year requiring clerks to notify voters, if they vote early or through the mail, that if they have a signature missing from their ballot envelope, or if their signature doesn’t match, the clerk will be required to notify the voter and give them a meaningful opportunity to correct and identify themselves so that the ballot can be rightfully counted.

Jocelyn Benson: (20:44)
This is critical to ensuring our security protocol with our ballots, ensures that every valid vote is counted. Now importantly, for voters planning to vote by mail or from home, or early, it is important that you put your ballot in the secure envelope, and then you sign the ballot envelope before returning it. The legislation today will require clerks to notify voters if there are any errors in that process, to again ensure that every valid vote is counted.

Jocelyn Benson: (21:14)
Finally, I’m grateful for the legislature for codifying our secure ballot drop box guidelines. In the past several months, my office has worked in partnership with local clerks to install over 1000 drop boxes securely across our state in every community. If you are a voter who wants to return your ballot through your local drop box, note you can only use the drop box in your community, and you can find the location of your drop box by going to michigan.gov/vote and entering your voter information.

Jocelyn Benson: (21:43)
The secure ballot drop box guidelines entered into law today will ensure that our clerks have the support and resources needed to ensure security and monitorization of our ballot drop boxes, and the vast majority are already doing this.

Jocelyn Benson: (21:59)
Now there’s a fourth provision of the law that I had hoped to be celebrating today alongside the governor, as a military spouse with a husband who served in Afghanistan, and attempted to vote in 2012, but was unable to because this very provision was not in place. I was hoping to celebrate the recognition of the law that the Senate and the House passed, enabling military service members serving overseas, and their spouses to complete their ballots, and return them electronically through a secure portal. My office stands ready and willing to work with the legislature once this law is passed. And again, it was very disappointing to see this particular piece of legislation and our military service members used as political pawns for partisan gamesmanship, that neglects the recognition and the service that they have given so much to our country.

Jocelyn Benson: (22:49)
So I call on the legislature to please deliver this legislation that was passed with bipartisan support to our governor, so that she may sign it in support of our military service members and their spouses who work hard every day to protect our democracy and to serve and protect all of us.

Jocelyn Benson: (23:07)
Finally, today, I’d like to recognize the attorney general, who last week filed charges against individuals who had submitted and circulated a robocall to citizens in our state, trying to misinform them about their right to vote from home, or by mail this fall. This statement, and these charges filed by the attorney general reflect our mutual commitment, in fact all of our commitment, to stand in guard in protecting our voters and their rights against any attempt to misinform them or deceive them as to their ability to vote this year.

Jocelyn Benson: (23:42)
We’ll continue to do that, and we need your help. If you receive anything or hear anything as voters or as citizens in the state that seems wrong, or maybe misinformation, send it to my office through the email at misinformation@michigan.gov. This will enable us to look into that information, correct it, and if necessary, pass along any credible-

Jocelyn Benson: (24:03)
… Correct it, and if necessary, pass along any credible allegations of misinformation to the Attorney General for further investigation. Thank you again, Governor Whitmer, for inviting us here today. Now I would like to turn it over to one of the strong, active, and long serving clerks in our state, Mary Clark.

Mary Clark: (24:31)
Thank you, Governor Whitmer, for signing Senate bill 757 in a timely manner. We are deeply grateful for your awareness of the critical need for this legislation, and we appreciate your support of Michigan clerks. We are entrusted to conduct what is undoubtedly the most important election of our careers, and we are committed to ensuring the integrity and accuracy of this election. And thank you to the Michigan legislature for acting on this important issue impacting our upcoming November Presidential election.

Mary Clark: (25:04)
The dramatic increase in absentee voter ballots will still require a significant amount of time to finish the processing and tabulation. This legislation allowing 10 hours of preprocessing time on Monday will certainly help us to have a headstart. While as Michigan clerks, we are extremely grateful for this tool, we urge you all to be cognizant of the reality that we will not have election results at 8:05 PM. Again, thank you for your commitment to a successful 2020 Michigan Presidential election.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (25:51)
So, I’m going to sign the bills, and then I’ll do a little Q&A. So, what, 10 minutes? All right. Great. Okay. Happy to answer a few questions. And Secretary of State is still here and ready to answer a few as well if any members of the press has some for her too.

Speaker 4: (26:52)
Okay, great. We’ll jump into questions. I do want to say that the focus of today’s press conference is on the elections and we realize there are other questions out there, but we’d like to start with on topic questions, and then we’ll try to get to as many other questions as we can. So at this point, we will start Q&A with Tim [inaudible 00:27:11].

Tim: (27:12)
Thank you. Governor, you’re aware of the legislative process can be rather cumbersome at times, what are your fears now that you’ll have to negotiate with the legislatures on emergency action and doing it in a time frame?

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (27:26)
Well, the legislature was designed to be a deliberative body, and that’s always been one of the issues in the midst of a crisis, having one person with whom the buck stops and who can act nimbly when lives are on the line. The legislature has a lot of procedural rules and many members, and it works well when there’s a lot of time for deliberation, but it’s not the quickest body often when we have to act swiftly. That’s why I’m grateful that the Director of Health and Human Services has epidemic powers that he is using to keep people safe. He’s an important part of my administration and has been a part of every conversation and helped inform each decision that we’ve made, so we are aligned and I’m very pleased with the action they’re taking and would anticipate more.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (28:16)
But when it comes to things like extending unemployment benefits, we have hundreds of thousands of people in this state who are dependent on unemployment in these times, needing to put food on the table for their families, and all of that is at risk. Legislature only has a handful of days on the calendar, most of which are not really intended to be for session. They’re called non-voting days, so they’re on the calendar so they can say they’re in session, but they’re not actually here. That’s my biggest concern, is I hope that they can get here, they can get to work and they can get some of these executive orders that have been such a lifeline to so many people in our state codified and sent to my desk so that people aren’t left in the gap. And that’s my biggest concern, Tim, if the legislature will come back and get to work and get these important measures on my desk, so people don’t have to go without and in these horrible, tough, stressful times.

Speaker 4: (29:18)
All right, Governor, the next question will come from Jim Kiertzner with TV 7 in Detroit.

Jim Kiertzner: (29:23)
Good afternoon, Governor. Talking about working with the legislature, the Health and Human Services orders run through October the 30th. First part of the question is, can they be extended beyond that if necessary with another order from that department? And you said in your opening statement that you’re not going to negotiate doing what’s right for public safety, so what kind of headwinds are you expecting negotiating with Republicans in the legislature when it comes to masks and limits with public gatherings? Aren’t those going to be the tough spots?

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (30:00)
So we already know that there are a lot of anti maskers in the legislature, who also have come down with COVID by the way, going to events where they are protesting masks, the saddest irony. None of us takes joy in that. I want fewer people to get COVID and that’s what really has informed every decision that we’ve made. The Department of Health and Human Services, the Director Robert Gordon has epidemic powers that he can and is using, and I would anticipate more orders even yet today, perhaps, or in the coming days. He can extend those, and I fully anticipate until we have some comfort that we’ve gotten our arms around this disease that they will be extended.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (30:45)
The fact of the matter is COVID-19 is still very present in Michigan and across the country. Our own President has COVID-19 right now, as well as I think the last count was 27 people who were at their SCOTUS event that they had in the Rose Garden. This is a disease that does not care who you are. It does not care what a court said. It does not care what the legislative schedule is. It does not care how tired we are of this disease. And that’s why we cannot let our guard down now. They did that in Wisconsin. Wisconsin is now a national hotspot, and you can see what’s happening in the upper peninsula. Some of it could be from because of what’s going on in Wisconsin. Other could be this people have dropped their guard, and this is what we are up against.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (31:32)
Until there is a vaccine that is widely available and has efficacy and is safe, or until we have better therapeutics, we are going to have to continue to mask up. That remains the law in Michigan right now through the Director’s epidemic orders. Those powers were not at issue in the Supreme Court. They are still standing and they will be exercised so long as they need to be. So let’s be smart, Michigan. We know what it takes to push our COVID numbers down. We’ve been successful in the past, but I can tell you right now, the numbers that we’re seeing are concerning, and we are on the cusp of flu season, and we have more contacts than ever with so many parts of our economy re-engaged and in-person learning happening. And that’s why we really have to take this seriously and not let our guard down now.

Speaker 4: (32:23)
Okay, Governor. The next question will come from Eric Lloyd with TV 9 & 10.

Eric Lloyd: (32:31)
Hello, Governor. I was curious with these guidelines from MHSS back-filling some of the executive orders, where do we stand on your My Safe Start plan? On Friday, the upper peninsula is supposed to slide back to phase four. Is that still happening? Is that still in effect?

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (32:52)
Well, Eric, a lot of the work under the 1945 laws are not still standing. However, the fact of the matter is COVID is still a very real presence and the upper peninsula numbers are very concerning. They’re posting numbers that rival that of any we’ve seen in months in the state, and while there are some great health systems in the UP, they are not equipped to handle a major community spread outbreak, and that’s why we have to take this seriously. So we can’t get caught up in whether or not we’re still in phase four or five in a particular region. The law of Michigan, by virtue of these epidemic orders, are that we have to mask up and that we can’t congregate in large numbers. And I believe that there will be additional measures that the Director will be taking in the coming hours and days.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (33:45)
But the fact of the matter is, COVID is still a very real presence. It is a threat to the economic rebound that we’ve had. It is a threat to in-person education of our children. It is a threat to our lives, and none of us should take this for granted. If the most protected person in the country can get COVID-19, every one of us can get COVID-19. And this, this piece of cloth that I wear on my face is the best tool that we have right now to keep ourselves, our families and one another safe.

Speaker 4: (34:21)
Okay. We’ll take a few more questions. So the next question will come from Zach [inaudible 00:34:27] with [inaudible 00:34:27].

Zach: (34:26)
Thank you, Governor. Thanks for doing this. I wanted to ask you, proceeding with the mask theme, about Senate Majority Leader Shirkey’s comments over the weekend where he immediately ruled out putting any type of a mask mandate in the statute. Were you perturbed by that? Does it, to you signal that it’s going to be extremely difficult to try to work out a new legal framework with the legislature, and is your administration’s ability to compel mask use now greatly limited? I mean, the order that Director Gordon issued yesterday seemed to cover only a small fraction regarding masks of what your previous executive orders did.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (35:11)
Well, I think it is concerning that the top Republican in Michigan government is an anti masker and doesn’t want to encourage and require everyone across the state to mask up within hours of the leader of his party, our President getting admitted into Walter Reed for COVID-19. A mask remains the best tool we have to keep our businesses open. A mask remains the best tool we have to keep our kids in school. A mask remains the best tool we have to protect our lives and our livelihoods and our families. So I think that those comments show you a real disdain for science and ignorance of the …

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (36:02)
[inaudible 00:36:00] for science and ignorance of the epidemiology that we are up against. Experts agree, our public health experts, every scientist who is studying this understands that this is crucial. And that’s why I’m glad that our Director of Health and Human Services has epidemic orders that he is able to sign to keep us safe. And I think that as we move forward where I have to negotiate with the legislature, I’ve always been interested in negotiating with the legislature, if we can find some common ground. But I’m not going to hold back. I’m doing what we know to be the right thing, to protect people in this state.

Tiff: (36:44)
[inaudible 00:00:47].

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (36:48)
Any election law questions? Okay. Tiff, let’s keep rolling.

Tiff: (36:55)
All right Governor, we’re going to [inaudible 00:36:56] next.

Speaker 5: (36:57)
Governor, given that the Health and Human Services department comes under the executive branch, do you think that the legislature is more or less likely to negotiate with you after the Supreme Court overturned the executive orders and they were almost immediately reinstated by another part of the executive branch?

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (37:25)
I think it’s really important that we talk about what the Supreme Court ruled. All right. In the text of their ruling, it says my interpretations were reasonable, but they also concluded was that 1945, the legislature made a huge mistake and should not have conferred and should not have passed that law. So everything I’ve done has been considered appropriate within the law that was on the books. Now this question about what happened 75 years ago, I’m not going to get caught up on it. They have ruled and we’re going to continue to move forward.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (38:06)
But my job as governor is to do everything that I can and utilize every power that I have to protect people. We’ve had an incredible amount of success here in Michigan. It’s been hard, we’ve lost over 7,000 people to COVID-19. We know that there are a lot of businesses that are still struggling to get on track, but we also have one of the top 10 economic rebounds in the nation. We’ve pushed our COVID numbers down. And so while we know that there is a lot of concern right now because of where the numbers are and because of this ruling and the chaos that has ensued and the confusion that has been created, that likely our numbers could go up, and that’s what we’re going to do everything that we can do to keep that from happening.

Tiff: (38:59)
Okay. Governor, the last question will come from Hank Winchester with TV four in Detroit.

Tiff: (39:11)
Hank, we can’t hear you. Are you, you’re muted. If you could un-mute. There we go.

Hank Winchester: (39:16)
There we go. Governor, good afternoon. Secretary Benson has said while she’s very thankful for the extra time allowing the clerks to count ballots, absentee ballots, she’s also cited simply not enough time and is unsure whether many clerks will even take the opportunity to use those extra 10 hours. Considering and knowing that Michigan is such an important state nationally and how close the numbers were during the last Presidential election, how concerned are you that clerks are simply not going to have enough time that the country is going to be waiting for our results until Friday?

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (39:55)
Hank, you’re my hero. You asked an election question. Thank you. And with that, I am going to ask our Secretary of State, one of the national experts in this field to address it. Thank you.

Jocelyn Benson: (40:12)
Thank you Governor, and as the governor knows, and Hank, as I think you know, I am very concerned. I would have and have been for 18 months now, asking the legislature to have our laws reflect what States who have had this level of absentee ballot voting for a number of years, what their laws reflect are the best practices, which is that at least seven days are needed for ballots to be pre-processed in order to have a direct impact and get results in sooner. But importantly, I also want to make sure… So, so yes, as we’ve all said, this legislation today is a step in the right direction. It does not go far enough to ensure that we, to enable me to assure the public that our clerks, who will be working as hard and as efficiently as they can, from the moment the polls close to the moment we announced the full count of the results. They will be working efficiently to, to process and tabulate those ballots safely and securely.

Jocelyn Benson: (41:10)
But giving them, in some communities with 25,000 or more, the choice to, with additional record keeping and reporting, have 10 extra hours on the front end to open envelopes. That’s great, step in the right direction. It’s not enough. States like Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, give their local clerks significantly more time, in some cases, weeks more to begin this process. But here we are. I’ll also mention what my office has done, which is double, in some cases, triple the number of high-speed ballot tabulators, automatic envelope openers, and other equipment that our clerks can utilize to increase their capacity and efficiency of the process. We have recruited over 26,000 new election workers all across the state, many of whom will be helping to increase the number of people who can help with this process.

Jocelyn Benson: (42:01)
So we will ensure that it is as efficient as possible. And I will assure the nation of that come election night and the days that follow. But what is also important for all of us is that as those ballots are tabulated, whether it takes one day, two days or three days, that that process is methodical, it’s secure, and when it’s done, the results are accurate. So at this point, that’s what we’re all going to prioritize. And we appreciate the legislature taking one small step to assist us. I don’t know, Mary Clark, if you’d like to add anything to that as a clerk representative today.

Mary Clark: (42:37)
Thank you. I think it’s important for people to understand what the process actually is. We have to remember that people are entitled to cast a ballot or return their ballot up until 8:00 PM. So every clerk’s office will have dozens to hundreds to thousands of ballots that are returned from 7:00 to 8:00 PM. Plus every new potential voter that is in line in a clerk’s office at 8:00 PM to register to vote is entitled to have a ballot that they can mark and cast election night. So we will have ballots that have to go to an AV counting board after 8:00 PM, possibly after 9:00 PM.

Mary Clark: (43:27)
In the August election, we had people in our lobby. In the March presidential primary, we had a line in our lobby. So it’s just, there’s a lot of factors that come into play to understand that it isn’t a magic button that gets pushed at 8:00 PM. And that’s what I encourage people to appreciate the process, the freedom and the right we offer people to register to vote and to vote in Michigan and in the United States and to appreciate the accuracy and the integrity that we as clerks are absolutely committed to, for each and every one of our residents. Thank you.

Tiff: (44:12)
Thank you Madam Clerk, Secretary of State, and thank you Governor. Thank you everybody. Have a great day.