A number of Michigan voters are voting by mail for the first time in upcoming August and November elections due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
For the first time since 2018, Michigan voters have the option to vote by mail without a reason. As the threat of COVID-19 intensifies across the state and country, registered Michigan voters are preparing to vote in the Michigan Primary Election on Aug. 4 and the General Election on Nov. 3 using absent voter ballots.
Polling precincts will be open for in-person voting on Aug. 4 -- but if you’ve decided to give the vote-by-mail system a try, here’s everything you need to know about voting with an absentee ballot in the 2020 Michigan Primary Election.
Applying for a Michigan absentee ballot
All registered Michigan voters now have the option to vote by mail using absent voter ballots.
The state of Michigan mailed absentee voting applications to all registered Michigan voters in May. Those who applied to receive an absentee ballot for the Michigan primary should have already received it in the mail.
You can apply to receive a Michigan absentee ballot on the state’s website here. Requests for Michigan absentee ballots must be received by your local clerk’s office no later than 5 p.m. on the Friday before the election -- which would July 31 for the Aug. 4 election.
Michigan voters registered at their current address can request an absentee ballot in person at their local clerk’s office anytime up to 4 p.m. on the day before election day -- which is Aug. 3.
Michigan allows same-day voter registration -- meaning you can register to vote on the day of the election. Michigan residents registering to vote or updating their current address at their local clerk’s office on Aug 4. can also request an absent voter ballot at that time.
Note: Michigan absentee ballots requested in person on Aug. 3-4 will be required to be filled out immediately while in the clerk’s office on the day of your visit.
To check on the status of a requested absentee ballot, registered Michigan voters are encouraged to contact their city or township clerk’s office directly.
Michigan absent voter applications are also being accepted for the upcoming 2020 General Election on November 3.
Filling out an absentee ballot for the 2020 Michigan Primary Election
It’s important to be cautious and follow directions exactly when filling out a Michigan absentee ballot in order for it to be counted on election day.
Making a mistake on your absentee ballot would require you to obtain a new one and start over -- which is not ideal as the election is quickly approaching.
Inside of your official Michigan absent voter ballot envelope is a brightly-colored “secrecy sleeve” containing your absentee ballot. Directions for filling out the ballot are included on the front of the sleeve.
Here are the directions for filling out your Michigan Primary Election absentee ballot listed on the secrecy sleeve:
- TO VOTE: Completely darken the oval opposite each choice as shown.
- IMPORTANT: To mark your ballot, use only a black or blue ink pen. Do not use any other ink color.
- PARTISAN SECTION: There may be multiple part sections on the ballot. Select the party section of your choice.
- You may vote in one part section ONLY; you cannot “split your ticket.” If you vote in more than one party section, your partisan ballot will be rejected .
- DO NOT vote for more candidates than indicated under each office title.
- WRITE-IN CANDIDATES: To vote for a candidate whose name is not printed on the ballot, write or place the name of that candidate in the blank space provided and completely darken the voting target area. Do not cast a write-in vote for a candidate whose name is already printed on the ballot for that office.
- CHECK BOTH SIDES OF BALLOT: The ballot may have two sides. Be certain to check the reverse side of the ballot.
- WHEN YOU HAVE COMPLETED VOTED: Place the ballot in the secrecy sleeve so that votes cannot be seen and the numbered stub is visible.
- NOTE: If you make a mistake, return your ballot to the election official and obtain a new ballot. Do not attempt to erase or correct any marks made in error.
A stub is located at the top of the ballot containing numerical information needed by the clerk’s office to identify your ballot. If the stub detaches from your absentee ballot while you are filling it out, you must include the stub with your ballot when it is returned.
Returning your completed Michigan absentee ballot
Completed absentee ballots for the 2020 Michigan Primary Election must be received by your local clerk’s office by 8 p.m. on Aug. 4.
Packaging your absentee ballot once it’s completed
Once you’ve filled out your 2020 Michigan Primary Election absent voter ballot, place it inside of the brightly-colored secrecy sleeve that it was initially presented in. This sleeve protects your votes from being read by others.
Next, be sure to sign and date the return envelope that was provided with your absent voter ballot. All Michigan voters are required to sign the back of the envelope or the vote will not be counted.
For those who are disabled or required assistance to fill out their absentee ballot, a signature is required from the person who assisted. This signature should be placed on the section of the back of the envelope that says “To be completed only if voter is assisted in voting by another person.”
Once your Michigan absentee ballot is packaged, it needs to be returned to your local clerk’s office before the 8 p.m. deadline on Aug. 4 or it will not be counted.
To return your absentee ballot on time, you have two options:
Return your absentee ballot by mail
You can return your completed absentee ballot by mailing it to your local clerk’s office. To ensure your ballot is received by the 8 p.m. deadline on August 4, we recommend mailing out your completed ballot at least four days before the deadline -- which would be July 31.
Postage will be required to return your Michigan absentee ballot by mail.
Return your absentee ballot in person
You can also return your completed absentee ballot by delivering it to your local clerk’s office before the 8 p.m. deadline on August 4. Some offices are even offering ballot “drop boxes” to make returning your ballot easier.
- Click here to find contact and location information for your local clerk’s office. You’re encouraged to contact your clerk’s office directly to determine if a drop box option is available.
No postage is required to return your Michigan absentee ballot in person.
Remember: The back of the envelope containing the completed absentee ballot must be signed by the voter or it will not be counted.
Ballots can be tracked online here after they’ve been dropped off or returned by mail.
Michigan absentee ballots can be casted beginning 45 days prior to election day.
Requesting an emergency Michigan absentee ballot
Michigan voters can request an emergency absent voter ballot if they experience an emergency that prevented them from voting in person on election day.
Officials say the emergency must have occurred at a time that made it impossible for the Michigan voter to apply for a regular absent voter ballot.
A request for an emergency absentee ballot must be submitted after the deadline has passed for regular absent voter ballots -- in this case, July 31 -- but before 4 p.m. on Aug. 4.
For more information about emergency absentee ballots, Michigan voters are encouraged to contact their local clerk’s office directly.
Spoiling your Michigan absentee ballot
To spoil an absent voter ballot means to change your vote after it has already been casted -- because a candidate dropped out of the race, or for any other reason.
A Michigan voter hoping to spoil their previously-casted vote has two options to do so:
Spoil your Michigan absentee ballot by mail
To spoil your Michigan absent voter ballot by mail, you must send a letter to your local clerk’s office stating as such. The voter must also identify if they require a new absentee ballot or plan to vote in person at their polling precinct. A signature is also required.
The letter must be received by your local clerk’s office by 2 p.m. on the Saturday before election day -- which would be Aug. 1.
Spoil your Michigan absentee ballot in person
To spoil your Michigan absentee ballot in person, visit your local clerk’s office anytime before 4 p.m. on the Monday before election day -- which would be Aug. 3.
The voter can then decide to obtain a new absent voter ballot or cast their new vote at their polling precinct on Aug. 4.
There is no option to spoil a vote made in the Michigan Primary Election on election day.
Note: In-person voting will still be available for the 2020 Michigan Primary Election on Aug. 4, even amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Face coverings are not required to be worn at polling precincts, but are still encouraged to help prevent the spread of the virus.