Early voting in Michigan: Answering your most frequently asked questions

 eu.freep.com  10/18/2020 11:01:01 
Mikhayla Dunaj and Cam Rodriguez  |  Election SOS Fellows
How to vote by absentee ballot in Michigan: Step by step
Want to vote by mail due to COVID-19, but not sure how to go about it? We explain how to vote absentee in Michigan leading into the election.

With Election Day 2020  fast approaching (Nov. 3), the Free Press  brings you answers to frequently asked questions about registering to vote and casting an absentee ballot.  If you want to vote before Election Day, here's what you need to know to make your ballot count.   

If you have questions about voting, please e-mail them to city@freepress.com with the subject line "Election Question," and we'll do our best to answer them. 

How do I register to vote with a state ID or valid driver’s license?

Go to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Voter Information Center at mvic.sos.state.mi.us/RegisterVoter. You have through Monday, Oct. 19, to register to vote online or by mail.

You can register to vote in person at your local clerk’s office through Election Day. 

Detroit residents can visit one of 23 Satellite Vote Centers throughout the city to register to vote as well. To find the nearest Vote Center and operating hours, visit the city of Detroit’s Election website at detroitmi.gov/departments/elections

Voter registration forms are available in Arabic, Bangla, Burmese, Korean, Mandarin and Spanish at michigan.gov/SOSLanguageAccess

Can I still register to vote without a state ID or valid driver’s license?

Yes! You’ll just have to go to your local clerk with a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check or other government document to show where you live. Then register there.

I'm not sure if I'm registered to vote. How do I find out?

Confirm your voter registration with the Secretary of State's Office at mvic.sos.state.mi.us/Voter

How long do I have to register to vote?

You can register at your local clerk’s office up until 8 p.m. on Election Day. e. But to register to vote online or by mail, you have through Monday to do so. 

More: Full walkthrough on how to vote by mail in Michigan

More: Secretary of State: Last day to register to vote online or by mail is Monday

Voter Guide:  Learn about the candidates on your ballot in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties

How do I apply for an absentee ballot?

After Oct. 19, the Secretary of State's Office recommends registered voters request their absentee ballot in person at their  local city or township clerk's office to avoid potential postal delays. 

Through Oct. 19, you can fill out the Secretary of State's Office's absentee ballot application online at mvic.sos.state.mi.us/avapplication. You can also print your application and take it to your local clerk's office. 

You can print a PDF of an absentee ballot application translated into Arabic, Bangla, Burmese, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Spanish and Tagalog at michigan.gov/SOSLanguageAccess.

What do I need to do if I choose to email my completed application to my clerk's office?

Take a picture of your completed application and send it to the email address provided by your local clerk. Make sure you take the photo with steady hands and include your signature in the picture.

What's my deadline to apply for an absentee ballot?

Technically, these applications must be received by the clerks by 5 p.m. on Oct. 30, the Friday before Election Day. But that doesn't leave enough time for the ballot to be mailed to you. The Secretary of State's Office is recommending that you request your absentee ballot in person after Oct. 19 at your local clerk's office or if you're a Detroit resident, at a satellite voting center in the city. 

What if I miss that deadline?

You can still turn in an application in-person at your local clerk's office until 4 p.m. Nov. 2 as long as you're already registered to vote at your current address. 

Why should I request my absentee ballot as soon as possible?

The longer you wait to apply, the lower your chances are for successfully receiving and casting your ballot through the mail. After Monday, the Secretary of State's Office recommends going to your clerk's office in person to request an absentee ballot.

How can I find more information on my local clerk?

Visit the Michigan Secretary of State Voter Information Center at  michigan.gov/vote and click, “Where are my clerk’s offices?” under the voter information section.

When will I get my ballot after I turn in my application?

There is no specific timeline, so it’s best to ask your clerk how soon you should get your absentee ballot. You can track your ballot at https://mvic.sos.state.mi.us/Voter

How can I study my ballot before I receive it?

You can see your sample ballot at mvic.sos.state.mi.us/PublicBallot

You can also study the candidates on the Detroit Free Press' Voter Guide. The Free Press asked candidates in races up and down the ballot to answer questions about important issues. See what they had to say at freep.com/vote2020. Type in your address to find information from the candidates and learn about the questions that will be on your ballot. 

What do I do if I don’t receive my absentee ballot by Election Day?

Contact your local clerk immediately. You can track your ballot at https://mvic.sos.state.mi.us/Voter

What do I use to fill out my absentee ballot?

 You must  use a black or blue ink pen.

What’s the next step after marking my absentee ballot?

Put the absentee ballot into the secrecy envelope that comes with it. Seal the secrecy envelope and place it into the return envelope, then sign the big box. If you don’t sign, your absentee ballot will be invalid. 

How will I know that my ballot has been received?

After you’ve sent in your ballot, either by mail, in person or at a dropbox, its progress can be tracked through the Michigan Secretary of State Voter Information Center at mvic.sos.state.mi.us/Voter.

How much postage does my mail-in ballot require?

It depends based on the county and area; check with your local election authority to be sure.

Which drop box should I use to return my ballot?

Use an official drop box located within your jurisdiction. Find your drop box location by going to michigan.gov/vote and clicking "Where are my ballot drop boxes?"

I already voted by mail, but I want to change my vote. How can I do that?

If you’ve already sent your ballot in, submit a written and signed request to your voting area’s clerk by 5 p.m. Oct. 30, the Friday prior to the election, asking to nullify your ballot. For mailed requests, be sure to indicate that you want a new absentee ballot, if you still want to vote by mail. But remember, the Secretary of State's Office recommends that  all absentee ballot requests be made by Monday, Oct. 19 to avoid mail delays. 

What if I requested an absentee ballot, but now I want to vote in person?

If you've already sent in your ballot, the Secretary of State says: "An absentee ballot that has been returned to the clerk may be spoiled in person at the clerk’s office until 10 a.m. the Monday prior to the election. An absentee ballot that has not been returned to the clerk may be spoiled in person at the clerk’s office until 4 p.m. the Monday prior to the election."

If you haven’t sent in your ballot, bring it with you when you vote in person. You can surrender it then and vote at the polls.

Sources: Free Press research and the Michigan Secretary of State's Office. 

Mikhayla Dunaj and Cam Rodriguez are the Detroit Free Press' Election SOS Fellows, a program by Hearken and the American Press Institute to expand coverage of the upcoming election. If you have a question about voting, email it to city@freepress.com, and they'll look for an answer. 

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