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What happens to an absentee ballot after it's turned in?

Grand Rapids City Clerk Joel Hondorp to absentee voters: "Don't set the ballot in a bill pile, sent it back to us as early as possible!"

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Early voting in Michigan started Sept. 24, and the ballots started being mailed to voters that day. Fill the ballot out, sign the back of the ballot and return it to the USPS mailbox or a designated ballot drop box across the city. 

So where does the ballot go next?

“Don’t set it in the bill pile, get it back to us," says Grand Rapids City Clerk Joel Hondorp. "We have drop boxes all throughout the city. There are two 24/7 drop boxes in each ward, and for voters they’re easy to find they’re right on the instruction inside their absentee ballot is a list of where those drop boxes are.”

Hondorp says ballots are collected from the ballot drop boxes multiple times each day. And that the ballot boxes are secure. He can even watch live video of the ballot drop boxes locations right on his phone.

RELATED: Voter Guide 2020: What you need to know about the election in Michigan

“It's another safe way to drop them on your way to work, on your way home. Also you can drop them off at the clerk’s office and we have an office here are 201 Market Avenue, Election Central that’s open 12 p.m. to 5 p.m."

Of course, you can just send your ballot back through the United States Postal Service. Everyday, the ballots collected via the mail, ballot drop boxes or received in person at the clerk's office are taken to city hall, where they are organized into prescient order. Then they are transported into our secure ballot room, where they stay until the day before the election. Not even 13 ON YOUR SIDE was permitted inside the secure room -- Staff only! The day before the election they are transported to the absentee ballot counting board. 

Voters can follow their own ballot by going here.  

“When we receive it back, we scan it into the qualified voter file which is the statewide voter file and it will say the date we received it back, so then you’ll know that we have it," says Joel Hondorp.

And if absentee ballot voters are bummed that they won’t get that coveted “I VOTED” sticker at the prescient this year, don’t be! Right on this ballot drop box, voters can scan the bar codes for Instagram or Facebook to get a virtual "I VOTED sticker!” 

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