Michigan Voters : Absentee Ballot Request
Absentee Voting in Michigan
Heading into the 2020 presidential election, Michigan is one of the states that has made the most changes to the absentee voting system. Part of these changes are a direct response to the Covid-19 pandemic, while other changes were put in place during the 2018 election. Previously, if you wanted an absentee ballot, which allows you to vote through the mail, you needed to provide a valid reason, such as being out of the state or working during the election. Without a valid reason, your request would be denied. Heading into the 2020 election, all registered Michigan voters now have the right to request an absentee ballot without a reason. The state has also made it easier to access the ballot application.
Applying for an Absentee Ballot in Michigan
In order to receive an absentee ballot, you must first complete an application. Since you no longer need a valid reason to request an absentee ballot, it is rare for the application to be denied. The main reason you still need to complete the application is for security purposes. When you complete an application, you must confirm your address and provide a signature. Both of these are security measures to prevent another voter from registering on your behalf and stealing your ballot. It is also a way for the state to track whether or not you voted. This prevents you from casting an absentee ballot, but then going to a physical polling station on election day to cast another ballot.
There are several ways to get an absentee voter application, including:
- Printing the application from the Michigan Voter website.
- Sending a mail request or calling your county clerk’s office.
- Visiting the county clerk office in person.
One of the biggest changes heading into the 2020 presidential election is the option to apply for an absentee ballot online. Additionally, when you complete either an online or physical application, you may register to get added to the permanent absent voter list. The name is a little misleading. If you sign up for the permanent absent voter list, you are not automatically enrolled as an absentee voter in future elections, but you do receive an absentee voter application each election.
No matter how you request your application, you have until 5 p.m. on the Friday before the election to submit an application. However, you can go in person to your clerk’s office up until the day before an election to request an absentee ballot in person. If you wait until the final day before the election, you must complete the ballot at the office. If you are a new voter, you are allowed to register for an absentee ballot at the same time you submit your voter registration information.
Casting an Absentee Ballot in Michigan
When you receive your absentee ballot depends on when you submit your application and what county you live in. Because of the influx of absentee ballot requests due to Covid-19, election officials are expecting delays in getting the ballots out. If you use the online application for an absentee ballot, you are able to track the request. If you have not received your absentee ballot in October, contact your county clerk’s office to request an update on when your ballot will arrive.
When your ballot arrives, it will contain an instruction sheet regarding how to use the ballot and where to send it. You may either mail the application to the address provided on your instruction sheet, or you may drop off the ballot at a deposit box when early voting begins, up until election day. You have until 8 p.m. on the election day to submit your absentee ballot.
Overseas and Military Absentee Voting in Michigan
There are a few differences if you are registering for an absentee ballot while living overseas or serving in the military. One of the differences is the deadline dates. Your absentee ballot request must be submitted by October 31st for the 2020 presidential election. You still have until 8 p.m. on November 3rd to submit your ballot.
The other difference is you can apply for an absentee ballot using a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). When you submit an FPCA you receive a special absentee ballot, the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB). A FWAB is a generic election ballot which is available if you are not able to access a traditional absentee ballot while you are overseas.
How is Michigan Preparing for the 2020 Election
As one of the key battleground states in 2020, Michigan has been heavily scrutinized for how it is handling the election. This began even before Covid-19, but the state has only received more attention after the pandemic. County election officials are sending protective equipment and cleaning supplies to polling stations, including face masks, disposable pens and sanitizer wipes. Voters are encouraged to wear masks if they are going to the polls. Polling locations are also being remodeled to minimize person to person contact in accordance with social distancing guidelines. Workers in polling stations are also being granted additional breaks, so they have time to sanitize and wash their hands.
The state is also pushing more voters to register for absentee ballots. Initially, election officials wanted to send all registered voters an absentee ballot application, but this idea was rejected. However, the state is making registration easier by introducing an online application. There has already been a huge surge in the number of registered absentee voters for the 2020 presidential election.