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Here's how to make sure your absentee ballot is received and counted before the Aug. 4 primary

absentee ballot
Jodi Westrick
Michigan Radio
Absentee ballots need to be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made a lot of things much more difficult. And with less than one week until the August primary day, voting is the latest challenge for many Michiganders.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson sent absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in May. That has resulted in a huge number of absentee ballot requests, up 350% compared to the same time ahead of the 2016 state primary.


Now, both the pandemic and funding issues have led to slow delivery times by the U.S. Postal Service, which means there are delays in sending and receiving absentee ballots. 

Some people are still waiting to receive their ballots, and many who have received ballots have not yet returned them. And it’s getting down to the wire: if a ballot isn’t returned by 8 p.m. on Election Day, it won’t be counted.

Here’s what to do to make sure your absentee ballot is received on time…

…If you have received your ballot in the mail

The Secretary of State is urging Michiganders who have received their ballot to return it as quickly as possible in order to get counted.

You can return your ballot to a drop off box like this one in Ann Arbor.
Credit April Baer / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
You can return your ballot to a drop off box like this one in Ann Arbor.

“Voters should get their absentee ballots returned as quickly as possible,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. 

In order to guarantee that your ballot is received and counted, drop it off at your local clerk’s office yourself, or use the correct ballot drop box.

...If you haven’t received your ballot in the mail

Some voters have successfully filled out an absentee application, sent it back to their local clerk, but are still waiting for the ballot to be sent in the mail.

"We know there are people out there still waiting for their ballots even though they have requested them," Benson said in a press conference Wednesday. "To people who haven't yet received their ballots, we're also encouraging them to go, if they're able to, in-person to local clerk, and request a ballot there."

When you request and fill out a ballot at the clerk's office, that becomes your official ballot, and the one that was heading your way will be voided so you can't vote twice.

"If a ballot has already been sent to them - and we'll have a note of that - that already sent ballot that may be in transit will be invalidated so that it cannot be counted. There's a barcode that enables us to track all of this. The new ballot that they get with their clerk will be their valid ballot that [the clerk] can then count."

...If you haven’t applied for an absentee ballot, but still want to vote absentee

It’s too late to apply for an absentee ballot online for the August 4 election, so you’ll need to go to your local clerk’s office by August 3 at 4 p.m. There, you can apply to vote absentee, fill out the ballot, and return it in one visit.

...If you aren’t registered to vote but want to

If you aren’t registered to vote, you can register, then request and fill out a ballot at your local clerk’s office before 8 p.m. on Election Day. It’s too late to register to vote online for the August 4 election, and mailing an application will face the same delays as mailing a ballot.

In order to register to vote, you will need to provide photo identification, or you will be asked to sign an affidavit.

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Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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