by Leslie Kaml, OTR/L, MS, JD
The Michigan appeals court ruled last Friday that ballots received after 8 p.m. on Election Day cannot be counted, overturning a lower court that had ruled that ballots postmarked by Nov. 2 and received within 14 days of the election could be counted. The decision also reverses the lower court’s decision to lift restrictions on who can handle absentee ballots, which would have temporarily allowed other people and groups to help voters transfer their ballots to clerks for the November election.
To ensure that your ballot is counted, go to BallotPower.org to get your clerk’s address, official dropbox location, and track your ballot in just 2 clicks. This database is sometimes a few days behind. You can also verify this information at https://mvic.sos.state.mi.us/Voter/Index. Or vote in-person Election Day.
WHAT TO DO TO STAY SAFE AND SANE TO VOTE
Bridge Michigan outlines several steps if you want to vote absentee this year.
Step 1: Check your voter registration.
Make sure you’re registered to vote by entering your voter information here. You must now go into your clerk’s office and register to vote any time through Election Day. Bring an official document that proves where you live,
Step 2: Apply for an absentee ballot.
Apply online for an absentee ballot to be sent to you in the mail any time before 5 p.m. Oct. 30. You can also download an application, fill it out and return it to your clerk by email, mail, fax or in person.
Step 3: Choose your candidates.
Review a full list of candidates by entering your voter information here. Once you receive your absentee ballot, read the instructions and fill it out as soon as you’re certain of who you’d like to elect. Fill in the circle next to your preferred candidate’s name completely. If you made a mistake, don’t put an “X” over it — it doesn’t cancel out your mistake. If you accidentally choose the wrong candidate, the only option is to “spoil” your ballot and get a new one. If that happens to you, skip to Step 7.
Step 4: SIGN YOUR BALLOT ENVELOPE!!
When you received your ballot, you should have gotten instructions, a secrecy sleeve and a second, larger envelope. When you have completed your ballot, place your ballot inside the secrecy sleeve. Then put secrecy sleeve inside the larger envelope. Be sure to sign the outside of the envelope in the big box indicated for signatures. Your signature is imperative!! Once your ballot reaches the clerk’s office, you can check whether your signature was accepted by entering your voter information here.
Step 5: Return your ballot to your clerk.
Since Election Day is so close, either drop you ballot off at your clerk’s office or in an official ballot drop box. Go to BallotPower.org to get information on your clerk, the clerk’s office location and the location of an official dropbox.
Step 6: Make sure your clerk received your ballot.
You can check whether your clerk received your voter application, whether they sent it, and whether they received it online here. If you sent your ballot back to your clerk more than a week ago and the clerk still hasn’t indicated they’ve received it, call the clerk to verify receipt. If it has not been received, you may need to spoil your ballot and cast a new one (more on that below).
Step 7: If you change your mind or made a mistake, spoil and recast your ballot.
If you made a mistake, changed your mind, or your ballot looks like it won’t reach your clerk in time, you may want to “spoil” your ballot and cast a new one. Spoiling a ballot is the same as canceling the old one. Since it is so close to the election, go to your clerk’s office and ask them to “spoil”/cancel your ballot and give you a new one. If the canceled ballot reaches you or the clerk after you’ve spoiled it, it won’t count. The latest you can spoil a ballot is 4 p.m. on Nov. 2, the day before the election. If you spoil your ballot at the last minute, ask your clerk what your options are to cast your vote.
Step 8: Celebrate
If you’ve made it through all of the above steps, it’s time to celebrate — you’ve voted in the 2020 general election.