Who Decides the Official Outcome of an Election and How do They Decide?

Who Decides the Official Outcome of an Election and How do They Decide?


The County Board of Canvassers decides who wins for elections totally within their jurisdiction and the State Board of Canvassers for all other elections – that’s who. 

 Not the TV pundits; not even your County Clerk, although they might release unofficial results.  At your local precinct, a copy of the tabulator tape will be posted so you can see the results there after the polls close.  But that, too, is unofficial until reviewed by the Board of Canvassers who verify the proper completion of the records from the election. 


The County Board “canvasses” primaries and elections by carefully reviewing and authenticating the various forms and certificates completed by precinct poll workers to document the votes cast at the polls.  The canvass begins at 1:00 pm the day following the election (Note: Board may decide to delay until absentee ballot counting is completed) and may continue for up to 14 days (Nov 17 in 2020).  If not completed by then, the canvass is transferred to the State Canvassing Board who have up to 10 additional days to complete the canvass.  (The investigation of alleged election law violations is not a part of the canvass.)


For races and matters totally within their jurisdiction, the Board “certifies” the election by declaring the final vote totals, the names of the nominees (primary) or of the persons elected (general election) and the outcome of any questions on the ballot.

 For all other instances, the Board of County Canvassers forwards the votes to the Board of State Canvassers for the certification step.

 Just what does the Board do?  Read on for a summary of the process or, if you really like details, here is the link to the “Manual For Boards of Canvassers” 

 The work of the Board of Canvassers is a public meeting and it is possible to attend as an observer.  The Michigan League of Women Voters is organizing members to attend in shifts to observe and report on the process as our votes are tallied and certified in this critical year.  

League to which this content belongs: 
Ann Arbor Area