Questions Surround the Voting Process for Michigan Residents in 2020
Will my vote be counted?
How do I make sure my absentee ballot doesn’t get rejected?
There’s lots of buzz around voting this year in what may be the hottest United States Presidential election of my lifetime.
This is a national issue with local execution. We wanted to do our part to help answer questions about the voting process for our readers, with the aim of helping families understand their voting options. Casting a ballot amidst a pandemic while juggling work, virtual or in-person school, and childcare is no easy thing.
We caught up with Carrie Beels, Election Specialist in Cascade Charter Township, to ask her questions regarding voting procedures for the upcoming presidential election.
In her role with the township, she is responsible for fielding calls, processing ballot applications, registering new voters, and working on other election-related tasks.
Here are answers to some of the questions we’ve been hearing. If you have a voting question you’d like addressed, please leave a comment on the article and we’ll do our best to get an answer for you.
MICHIGAN VOTING Q&A
Q: Where can I find Michigan election information?
You can even pull up a sample of what your ballot will look like to help you prepare.
Ballot samples are also available at your local clerk’s office to view.
Q1: What are the different ways people in Michigan can vote in the election?
A: There are two ways Michigan voters can vote in the Presidential Election: either in person at the polls on election day, or via absentee ballot. A voter can cast an absentee ballot by mail or in person at their clerk’s office.
Q2: What is the difference between absentee voting and mail-in voting?
A: Absentee voting requires a person request a ballot. A person may make this request via mail, online, or in-person at their clerk’s office.
Mass mail-in voting states directly mail ballots to all registered voters and then voters return their ballots by mail.
Michigan does not mail ballots out to everyone, only those people requesting an absentee ballot.
Michigan residents do, however, have the option of returning absentee ballots by mail. Any registered Michigan voter may use an absentee ballot to vote.
Q3: If I go to my clerk’s office to cast my absentee ballot early, in-person, do I need to have pre-requested a ballot and bring a ballot in with me?
A: No. You will still need to fill out a ballot application at the clerk’s office. After you’ve filled out the application, we can hand a ballot over to you at that time. You may fill out the absentee ballot at that time and return it to us, or you may take it with you and return it, or mail it in, at a later date.
Make sure to bring a photo ID and know that we are unable to give a ballot to anyone other than the voter who requested it.
We check your application signature and then the signature is checked again when the ballot is received. If there are any signature questions, the voter will be contacted. Signatures do not need to be a perfect match, say you sign J. Smith rather than John Smith, your signature will still be valid as long as the characteristics are the same.
Q4: What happens if an absentee ballot is rejected?
A: All rejected ballots are kept together and sealed for canvassing later on.
Q5: What if I requested an absentee ballot but later decide I want to vote in person at the polls? Can I do that?
A: Yes, you can do that. It’s called spoiling your ballot.
If you have already requested your absentee ballot and then change your mind, make sure to bring your ballot with you to your polling location on Election Day and surrender it there.
Q6: What if I make a mistake on my absentee ballot?
A: We put instructions in every ballot envelope we send out.
If you have made a mistake on your ballot, you may bring it back to us to have it spoiled and be reissued a new one. Please follow the directions carefully.
Q7: Is there any way to know if your ballot was counted?
You can also call your Clerk’s office to check the status of your ballot.
Q8: I’ve heard about ballot drop-boxes. Who can use these? What are the restrictions?
A: I cannot speak for other townships, but Cascade Charter Township has 2 ballot drop boxes, one on the outside of the building built into the wall, the other located inside near the reception area. Both are locked and secure.
*Editor’s note: The City of Grand Rapids has seven 24/7 dropbox locations, four of which are at GRPL locations. Michigan residents can locate ballot drop box locations for other municipalities by contacting their respective clerk’s office.
Q9: How is absentee ballot processing different from processing that happens for in-person voters on election day?
A: It really isn’t. All ballots are tabulated on Election Day.
We have an Absentee Voter board that verifies signatures and ballot numbers that run the ballots through the tabulator.
An interesting side note, there are always two people of opposing parties working together to ensure the integrity of each ballot.
Q10: What are the reasons a person’s ballot would be rejected?
A: If the voter does not follow the instructions and say votes for 2 presidential candidates, that vote would not count. We cannot do anything for voters who do not follow the instructions as the ballots are private, therefore, we do not prescreen them.
Other reasons for rejection include:
the signature does not match
ballot returned after 8 pm on election day and is not postmarked on or before 11/2/2020
voter sentenced to serve jail time by election day
voter moved and eligible to vote in new jurisdiction
voter status marked cancelled (deceased, moved out of state, citizenship, etc.)
voter status marked as rejected
the absentee ballot would be rejected if voter voted at the polls or vice versa
returned AV ballot envelop did not contain the ballot
ID of voter not confirmed (any new voter who has never voted before must show picture identification before they can vote)
Q11: If a person votes in person at the clerk’s office, is there any way the vote wouldn’t be counted on Election Day?
A: As long as you follow the ballot instructions, your vote will be counted.
We do not see the ballots before election day. We do not edit anything on the ballot. Everything is sealed.
Once it’s in the tabulator, it’s cast.
Say you mistakenly overvote in a section, i.e. choose 2 candidates and you choose 3, that section would not be counted, but the rest will.
The only time we will flag a ballot is if it does not seem to match the voter profile. If that is the case, the voter will be contacted.
Q12: How/when is my ballot processed if I vote absentee?
A: Absentee ballots are processed the same as a regular ballot on Election Day.
Absentee ballots are not processed until Election Day.
Q13: When and where do Michigan residents register to vote?
A: Residents can register by mail or online by 10/19/2020 and in person up to the day of election 11/3/2020.
In-person voter registration takes place at the clerk’s office of the voter’s municipality.
Q14: When is the last day for Michigan residents to register to vote?
A: You can register at any time up to 8 p.m. on Election Day at your city or township clerk’s office. If you’re registering another way, in order to vote in the November 3, 2020 election, your completed voter registration application must be received or postmarked by October 19, 2020.
Q15: How long after Election Day is Michigan counting mail-in ballots?
A: Any absentee ballot that is postmarked 11/2/2020 received within 14 days after the election.
Q16: Can I Get an “I Voted” Sticker if I mail in my ballot??
A: It’s not a sticker, but you can download and post a digital decal, courtesy of the city of Grand Rapids, showing that you voted.