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Voters have until Election Day eve to send ballots

absentee ballot
Jodi Westrick
Michigan Radio

This has been a lingering controversy – when is the cutoff for absentee votes to be counted?

Republicans have argued that any ballots that arrive after the polls closed should not be counted. Democrats say anything postmarked before polls close election night should be included.

An absentee ballot dropped in the mail no later than the day before the November 3rd elections must be counted. That decision came down Friday from a state Court of Claims judge.

Thousands of votes in the August primary were not counted because they arrived at clerks’ offices after Election Day due to mail delays.

In some cases, absentee ballots requested weeks in advance did not arrive at voters’ homes until the day of the primary.

In her written opinion, Judge Cynthia Stephens said slow mail caused thousands of voters to be denied a voice in the August primary and that should not happen again.

Stephens also said people who are immunocompromised are just one instance where voters would have to weigh the risk to their health against their right to cast a ballot.  

Her decision – which can be appealed – says votes postmarked no later than November 2 must be counted, as long as they arrive before the election results are certified two weeks later.

In the same decision, Stephens denied a request that the state provide absentee voters with postage-paid envelopes.

Some local officials are urging voters to skip the mailbox and drop off their absentee ballots in person.

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Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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