GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Secretary of State’s Office says more than 1.1 million absentee ballots have already been returned ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
During a virtual press conference on Tuesday, Jake Rollow, a spokesman for the office, said 1,899,273 absentee ballots had been requested as of Monday and 1,126,246 absentee ballots have been returned. That’s up from 771,967 last Tuesday and roughly 433,000 on Oct. 18.
“We are at just about 1.9 million (absentee ballots requested). It certainly seems feasible that we could get to 2 million or above,” Rollow said.
For voters who have requested an absentee ballot but have yet to submit it, state election officials recommend delivering the ballot directly to your clerk’s office or a drop box in your jurisdiction instead of relying on the postal service. An absentee ballot must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted. The postmark date is not a factor. Absentee ballots placed into the incorrect jurisdiction drop box also cannot be counted.
“At this point, we do not recommend that voters who have absentee ballots in hand return them by the U.S. Postal Service just because of the potential for postal service delays,” Rollow said. “Although we are not aware of any such delays at this point this year, we still feel the best practice at one week before Election Day is to return absentee ballots by hand.”
If you have requested an absentee ballot but have yet to submit it, you have options. You can still submit your absentee ballot or you can choose to vote at your polling place on Nov. 8.
“The best practice for them is to bring their absentee ballot to the polling place with them. They will then do what is called ‘surrendering’ their absentee ballot,” Rollow said. “They hand it over, it doesn’t matter whether it has been filled out or not filled out, they will hand it over to the election officials at the polling place who will then mark that they have received the absentee ballot. It will not be counted, and they will give them a ballot to vote in person there at their polling place.”
If you requested an absentee ballot but never received it, lost it or left it at home, you can still vote at your polling place.
“If the (absentee ballot) has not been submitted, the election workers will check by contacting the clerk’s office, the voter will be given an affidavit to sign stating that they either did not receive or do not have their absentee ballot,” Rollow said. “That initial absentee ballot will be considered a ‘spoiled’ ballot, so even if it does arrive it will not be counted, and the voter is then able to vote in-person at the polling place.”
PRE-PROCESSING ABSENTEE BALLOTS
While absentee ballots can make voting more accessible and convenient for voters, they will slow down the counting process. Michigan election officials don’t expect to have a finished statewide count until Wednesday night and are reminding voters that staff are working meticulously to make sure all votes are counted and recorded accurately.
New regulations passed in September allow for municipalities to start processing absentee ballots two days before Election Day, however only some jurisdictions across the state plan to use them this year because the quick turnaround didn’t give them enough time to plan or prepare staff. Many small jurisdictions don’t believe they need the extra time to complete their counts.
“Jurisdictions count their ballots in different ways,” Rollow said. “And by that, I mean that some jurisdictions, often smaller jurisdictions, will count their absentee ballots at their polling places. So they will process them in a separate room then carry them into the voting location and slide them through the tabulators in between voters. So when those precincts and those jurisdictions get to 8 p.m. on Election Day, they may have already counted all of their absentee ballots. So they may report out numbers that include both in-person and absentee votes.”
He continued: “Other jurisdictions are using absentee counting boards, so they are counting their absentee ballots in a completely separate location. When they do so, no matter how far they get with them during Election Day, they still have to wait for the ballots that get delivered at 8 p.m. to be security checked and be brought over to the absentee counting boards. Those are often the larger jurisdictions; they have more security checking that they need to do because they get more ballots. And so those jurisdictions, they may still report out initial results, but they will just be the polling place results, or in some cases it may be a mix of polling place results and absentee ballot results with more absentee ballot results to come.”
According to the state, 39 jurisdictions have confirmed they will use pre-processing time. That includes eight municipalities in West Michigan: Cascade Township, Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, Holland, Kalamazoo, Plainfield Township, Portage and Wyoming. The pre-processing work is open to the public. Dates, times and locations are available on the Secretary of State’s website.
“We hope to have results coming in as quickly as clerks can do so. We are also never rushing clerks,” Rollow said. “Our reminder to them is that security and accuracy is important. And that’s the other thing we want voters to know. No matter the time it takes, the fact that it is taking time is structurally created by the laws in our state and really is a demonstration of that fact that our clerks take their work seriously and they want to process and count all valid votes and to do so in a secure and accurate way.”
Michigan voters are deciding the races for governor, attorney general, secretary of state, judgeships, school boards and more, as well as three ballot proposals.
Polls will open at 7 a.m. Nov. 8 and close at 8 p.m. You can go to the Michigan Voter Information Center to view your sample ballot so you’re familiar with all the races, research the candidates and confirm the location of your polling place.
Whether voting in person or absentee, remember it’s a long ballot — check both sides to make sure you cast your vote for all the offices and measures.
It’s too late to register to vote online or by mail, but you can still do it in person at your local clerk’s office until polls close on Election Day.