Michigan Gov. Whitmer says she’ll be ‘stunned’ if it’s not a record turnout

Lansing — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says she’ll be “stunned” if her battleground state doesn’t achieve a record turnout in Tuesday’s presidential election.

The Democratic governor told reporters in a virtual briefing Tuesday afternoon that she’s been in regular contact with Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. About 3 million absentee ballots had been cast before polls opened earlier in the day, and 2 million to 2.5 million more people were expected to vote in person during the day, she said.

Those expectations put the state “in line” to break the record turnout from 2008 of 5.08 million votes, Whitmer said.

“I’d be stunned if this wasn’t a record turnout,” she added.

Benson’s office said Tuesday evening that absentee ballot counting was running smoothly and efficiently, with the operations in Detroit and Oakland County running more quickly than anticipated.

“Because those are two of the largest counting boards in the state, it’s great news that they’re having success today,” Rollow said.

“We’ve really done everything we could to make it feasible for results to be done as soon as possible,” he said.

Across the state on Tuesday, some polling places saw lines when they opened after 7 a.m. However, there were smaller groups waiting to vote in the early afternoon. Polls close at 8 p.m.

Voters are choosing whether to give President Donald Trump another four-year term or replace him with Democrat Joe Biden, the former vice president. Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes in 2016.

If there’s not a record turnout Tuesday, Whitmer, a co-chairwoman of Biden’s campaign, indicated the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic would likely be a factor.

During a Tuesday afternoon briefing, Whitmer took questions from reporters on the election, a position in a potential Biden administration and the rising number of coronavirus cases in the state.

The country needs a “national strategy” to combat the virus, she contended while noting she is changing her own Thanksgiving plans during the pandemic.

“My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, and I love to host,” Whitmer said. “I love to cook. I love to bring everyone together. We’re not doing any of it this year. We’re just not going to. Because it’s just too dangerous.”

Michigan reported a record number of COVID-19 confirmations last week: 20,154. Hospitalizations tied to the virus are also on the rise.

As for whether the governor could leave the state to take a job in a Biden administration if he’s elected, she appeared to nix that idea. Whitmer, whom Biden considered as a potential running mate before choosing Sen. Kamala Harris, referenced a comment from former Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard, saying there is no cabinet position “that rivals” being governor of Michigan.

“I will continue to be close to a Biden administration,” Whitmer said. “But I don’t have any desire or intent to go to a cabinet.

“I have every intent to stay right here and get this state back to work and make sure our economy is thriving, but first and foremost, we have to get our arms around this health care crisis. That’s what I’m going to work with the Biden administration on first.”

cmauger@detroitnews.com

Staff Writer Beth LeBlanc contributed.