The general election is on Nov. 3. This year’s election will look a little bit different with Michigan already setting a record for the number of absentee ballots requested.
Even with ballots being submitted by mail and in person, the election process is still the same. You have to be a registered voter to participate in the election. If you want to vote absentee, you need to apply for a ballot. Either in person or by mail, election officials will make sure you are the person submitting the ballot.
This guide will provide information about voting in Michigan, including:
- What are the key election deadlines
- How to register to vote
- How to vote by mail
- Is voting by mail safe
- How to vote in person
- What to expect on Election Day
Chapter one: What are the key election deadlines?
Monday, Oct. 19: Deadline to register to vote online or by mail. Residents can register through Election Day in person.
Friday, Oct. 30: Deadline to request absentee ballot online. You have until 4 p.m. on Nov. 2 to pick up an absentee ballot in person.
Tuesday, Nov. 3: Election Day
Even though those are the hard deadlines, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is encouraging that people request an absentee ballot at least a month before the election. She also suggests mailing a ballot no later than Oct. 20, since it needs to be received by the clerk's office by Election Day for it to count.
Chapter two: How to register to vote
You can either register to vote in person, by mail, or online. In Michigan, in order to register to vote you must:
- Be a citizen of the United States
- Be 18 years old by the next election
- Be a resident of Michigan and at least a 30 day resident of your city or township by election day
- Not be confined in a jail or prison after being convicted and sentenced
Importantly, if you have moved to a new city or township you need to re-register. Check your registration status here.
To register to vote online, you will need a Michigan driver's license or state ID. If you don’t have one, you can still register by mail or in person. Visit the Secretary of State’s website and fill out the forms. The deadline to register to vote online before the general election is Oct. 19.
To register to vote by mail, you can print off this form, fill it out, and mail to your clerk’s office. You will need to provide some form of identification, either your Michigan driver’s license number, Michigan state ID number, the last four digits of your social security number, or a copy of other identifying forms like a pay stub, bank statement or license from another state. The deadline to register to vote with this form is 15 days before the election, if you fill it out at a voter registration drive or deliver it to a county clerk. If you mail the form, it must be postmarked 15 days before the election, which is Monday, Oct. 19. After Oct. 19, it can be dropped off at a clerk’s office in person.
To register to vote in person, go to your local clerk's office. You have until 8 p.m. on Election Day to register in person. You will need to bring proof of eligibility and proof of residency.
- A Michigan resident (at the time you register) and a resident of your city or township for at least 30 days (when you vote)
- A United States citizen
- At least 18 years of age (when you vote)
- Not currently serving a sentence in jail or prison
- Michigan driver’s license or state ID
- Current utility bill
- Bank statement
- Paycheck or government check
- Other government document
Chapter three: How to vote by mail
In Michigan, no-reason absentee voting was approved by voters in a 2018 proposal. In order to vote by mail, you need to follow these steps: request a ballot, fill out the ballot, submit it.
1. Request a ballot
An application for an absentee ballot was mailed to all registered Michigan voters ahead of the primary election. If you didn’t get one, you can request an absentee ballot online, call your clerk’s office and ask for a new application to be mailed to you or you can print an application off to mail it in or drop it off in person.
Once you’ve submitted the absentee ballot request, you can track it online. Requests must be received by a clerk by 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 30. If you bring your request to a clerk’s office, you have until 4 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 2 to get a ballot. When a clerk gets your request, your signature will be compared against your voter registration record before a ballot will be sent out.
2. Fill out your ballot
The Michigan Secretary of State’s Office encourages people to fill out and send their ballot in as soon as they get it. If you haven’t gotten your ballot yet, don’t worry. Clerks won’t start sending them out until Sept. 24.
3. Submit it
Postal delivery times have slowed in recent months, so voters are recommended to mail their ballot in no later than Oct. 20, which is at least two weeks before the election. You can also fill your ballot out at home and drop it off in person at a clerk’s office, which will have a secure drop box available 24 hours a day.
What happens if I submit my ballot and I want to change my vote?
Michiganders who vote absentee have the option to spoil their ballot if they changed their mind. In order to do this, voters need to submit a written request to have a new absentee ballot mailed to them or pick one up in person. This request must be received by Saturday, Oct. 31. A ballot can also be spoiled in person at the clerk’s office until 4 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 2.
If you requested and received an absentee ballot, but didn’t turn it in, you can still vote in person. You just need to sign a statement. On Election Day, voters cannot spoil an absentee ballot.
Chapter four: Is voting by mail safe?
Short answer: yes.
Absentee voting has been utilized in Michigan for years, but recent changes to state law have only made it widespread. Regardless of the number of people who mail in their ballot, the Secretary of State’s office has measures in place to ensure the safety and security of votes.
It is pretty easy to get an absentee voter application, but getting a ballot is a more stringent process. To get a ballot mailed to you, the signature on your application is compared to the signature on your voter registration. Then, when you submit the ballot, the envelope must also be signed and verified in order for the ballot to count.
Forging someone else’s signature on a ballot, or trying to vote as someone else, is a crime. Voting twice is a felony and punishable on both the state and federal level.
If there is an issue with your ballot, like signatures mismatching, clerks are instructed to contact a voter as quickly as possible.
Michigan also uses paper ballots, which is the most secure way to conduct an election. This allows ballots to be recounted and audited.
Chapter five: How to vote in person
Even though state officials are encouraging people to vote absentee to limit crowds at the polls during COVID-19, in person voting is still an option. The Michigan Secretary of State says if you enjoy the “pomp and circumstance” of going to the polls, you can vote on Nov. 3.
You can find your polling place here. In-person polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and there will be social distancing procedures and other measures in place to keep poll workers and voters safe during the pandemic.
Michigan also allows same-day voter registration. You have until 8 p.m. on Election Day to register to vote at your clerk’s office.
Chapter six: What to expect on Election Day
Typically, results on Election Day start trickling in after the polls close and final results can be declared by the end of the night. However, this year election officials are warning that because of large numbers of absentee ballots, results could take longer.
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said she doesn’t expect final results until the Friday after the election.
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