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Election Returns Are Still Being Tabulated In Parts Of Michigan


When Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016, three states were decisive. Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin had voted for Democrats for president so often, they were called the blue wall - a wall that collapsed in a sea of red in 2016. This time around, all three are so far undecided as we wait on absentee and mail-in ballots to be counted.

Let's check in on two of those states, starting with Michigan, which is where we find NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea. Hey there, Don.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Great match of correspondent with a story here. You've lived in Michigan, grew up in Michigan, covered Michigan so long. Where'd you spend this election night?

GONYEA: I was in downtown Detroit in the old convention center right downtown. It's a place where I can't tell you how many auto shows I've been to and covered for, you know, NPR. But instead of glitzy automobiles, it was just row after row after row after row of nondescript, long tables with maybe a half a dozen people at each table going through bins and sorting through those absentee ballots. This is the place where every single absentee ballot in the city of Detroit was counted. Then there are similar places like this, though perhaps not quite as large, in smaller cities where people were doing the exact same thing. Going through those absentee ballots has to be done by hand.

INSKEEP: And I guess we have a sense of the scale of the problem in that they seem to have been doing that all night. And while most of the vote appears to have been tabulated in Michigan, not enough of it has been tabulated for us to know.

GONYEA: Right. We're up to maybe 75%, 80% of the vote in. Obviously, that number is, you know, changing probably as we speak 'cause they have been working all night. But 60% of the vote in this state - and it's a big state - was by absentee ballot. So it's just a much longer process than it normally would be.

Early on, the secretary of state earlier in the week said it would probably be Friday by the time we had a complete result, which doesn't mean that there wouldn't be enough to call the race one way or another before then, but Friday till we had a complete result. Now she's saying that it's gone more quickly than they thought and they may be able to finish by this evening - maybe 9 o'clock or so.

INSKEEP: OK, so we are still, in either case, expecting a number of hours of waiting. And we'll see how things go there. Can you give us some perspective on what's been happening in Michigan? It went for Trump in 2016. Then it elected a Democratic governor in 2018. Things have been rather dramatic during pandemic times.

GONYEA: Yeah, and this is one of those states that, going back to the beginning of the Bill Clinton era, it had become reliably Democratic in presidential contests every year until 2016. I talked to a lot of voters yesterday, mostly around the Detroit area, and Trump himself was a big issue and a big motivating factor for people to go out. And, of course, in the Detroit area, that was a vote against Donald Trump.

But a lot of people mentioned the coronavirus. You know, the auto industry is - has been hit hard by this economic impact of coronavirus. So it is a place where it was not hard to find people looking for change, but we just don't know which way this is going to go yet.

INSKEEP: OK, Don, thank you very much for the reporting.

GONYEA: My pleasure.

INSKEEP: NPR's Don Gonyea.

And again, the big picture, the bottom line - neither candidate has 270 electoral votes. Some of those still at issue are in Michigan. And we just heard from Don that it may be 9 o'clock this evening before absentee ballots are counted. We could have a result before then. We may not. However it goes, we will give you the facts that we know. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.
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