Michigan local leaders expect increased challenges for the 2020 election, but are confident about administering accurate elections

October 5, 2020

This report presents the opinions of Michigan’s township and city officials on issues related to election administration in their jurisdictions, including expected challenges and confidence in election security. Data from a parallel survey of Michigan County Clerks is included as well. These findings are basedon statewide surveys of local government leaders in the Spring 2020 wave of the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS), conducted between March 30 and June 1, 2020—prior to the August 2020 primary. It also contains comparisons to opinions expressed in the Spring 2017 MPPS wave.

Key findings

  •  When asked in the spring of 2020 to look ahead at potential problems with election administration in the November 2020 election, township and city officials indicate they are more concerned about potential problems this year compared to what they experienced in 2016.
    • Nearly half of township and city officials statewide (45%) predict they will have problems with recruiting poll workers with the necessary skills and with recruiting enough poll workers at all, regardless of skill level (up from 29% and 27%, respectively in 2016). In addition, 41% expect the cost of the election administration on the jurisdiction’s budget to be a problem in the 2020 election (up from 25% in 2016).
    • Township and city clerks—the officials who run elections in Michigan—are more likely than other local leaders—such as supervisors, mayors, or managers—to predict local problems with poll worker recruitment, costs, long wait times, and other issues.
    •  The state’s largest townships and cities (those with more than 30,000 residents) are more likely than smaller jurisdictions to predict a range of election-related problems, including over 70% who are concerned about poll worker recruitment.
  • Regarding election security issues, large majorities are “very confident” that final vote results (76%), voting machines (70%), and voter rolls (68%) will not be compromised in the November 2020 election, with most remaining officials “somewhat” confident and very few outright “not very” confident or “not at all” confident. When looking across all three aspects of security combined, the percentage who are “very” confident drops to 63%. In all cases, though, clerks tend to be more confident than other types of officials.
    • Local officials, including clerks, are less confident that they would know if their local election security was compromised, with only 54% very confident that their jurisdiction would know prior to or during the election that their voting machines, voter rolls, or vote tallies/results had been compromised, and 58% very confident they would know after the election if their election systems had been compromised. 
  • Despite these concerns regarding potential administrative problems and security, confidence in running accurate elections among local leaders remains very high. Statewide, 87% of township and city officials are “very confident” in their jurisdiction’s ability to administer an accurate election in November (down slightly from 91% who said the same after the 2016 election). Furthermore, 75% are very confident that their county clerk could conduct an accurate recount, if one is necessary (again down from 80% after the previous election).
    • A parallel survey of county clerks shows county officials are also quite confident both in a range of election security issues, and in the ability of local jurisdictions within their county to administer accurate elections.

Election administration problems: Costs


51% of city and township clerks expect the cost of the election administration on the jurisdiction’s budget to be a problem in the 2020 election. Spring 2020 MPPS

High confidence in ability to conduct accurate elections


The overwhelming majority of Michigan local officials are very confident that their local government is able to administer elections accurately Spring 2020 MPPS

High confidence in election security


Most Michigan local officials say they are very confident that final vote tallies or results will not be compromised. Officials are also very confident in security of voting machines and voter rolls. Spring 2020 MPPS