Michigan November election guide: register to vote, absentee ballots, important deadlines

Residents of El Paso, Texas cast their ballot for president of the United States in early voting, October 23, 2000. (Getty)

The 2020 race is coming up on its final weeks and will conclude with the general election scheduled for Nov. 3. In Michigan, residents will be picking their next president, a new senator, voting on two ballot measures and candidates to represent them in the state legislature and in Congress. 

Even with the global pandemic causing concerns over public health and voting in person, election officials at Michigan’s Secretary of State’s office have bolstered efforts to offer alternative forms of voting, like absentee voting or dropping off your ballot at your local clerk’s office. But before you can vote, you need to be registered. Here’s how:

How to register to vote/Check voter registration/Deadline to be registered:

If you haven’t registered to vote in the upcoming election in Michigan, there are plenty of methods for going about registering. While the state allows residents to register as a voter until 8 p.m. on Election Day, election officials always recommend doing it sooner rather than later. This year’s election will take place on Nov. 3. If you plan on mailing in your voter registration application, you’ll need to do it sooner (more on that in a bit),

To register, residents will need to meet four requirements:

  • You must be a resident of Michigan in your city or township for at least 30 days before election day
  • You must be a legal citizen of the U.S.
  • You cannot be currently serving a jail or prison sentence
  • You must be at least 18 years old by Election Day

When you register, you’ll be asked to provide some form of ID. There are multiple acceptable forms of ID that include:

  • A Michigan driver’s license or state ID
  • Current utility bill
  • Bank statement
  • Paycheck or government check
  • Any other government document with a relevant name and address information

If you meet all the requirements and have relevant documents, you can register through several different means:

  • You can do it online at Michigan.gov/VoterRegistration
  • At a Secretary of State branch office
  • At your city, township, or county clerk’s office
  • At any state agency that provides public assistance or services to people with disabilities
  • By mailing in a completed voter registration application. The mailing envelope must be postmarked by Oct. 19, 2020. You can download a form here 
  • Through a voter registration drive

If you plan on hand-delivering your voter registration application, you’ll be asked to provide photo identification. If you don’t have an acceptable form, you will be asked to sign an Affidavit of Voter not in Possession of Picture Identification. For anyone mailing in their application who has never registered before, they’ll need to meet an identification requirement. That includes:

  • Entering your driver’s license number or personal identification card number, OR
  • Send a copy of either: a photocopy of your driver’s license or personal ID card a photocopy of a paycheck stub, utility bill, bank document, or government document that lists both your name and address
  • a photocopy of your driver’s license or personal ID card
  • a photocopy of a paycheck stub, utility bill, bank document, or government document that lists both your name and address

If you cannot complete this part of the registration, you can always provide one of the above items at the polls on election day.

If you have moved, you will need to update your voter registration. You can use any of the above options to do so. 

If you’re not sure if you’re registered to vote or are unclear if your address was updated after moving, you can confirm your status here. 

The Secretary of State has also put together a short video that walks through residents how to register to vote. You can watch it below:

Where to vote?

If you’ve already confirmed you’re registered to vote, finding your polling place is easy. Go to the Polling Place tab on the Secretary of State website and fill out the requested information.

You’ll be asked for your name, license, local address, or county information. After one of those options is filled out, a breakdown of the election calendar, one’s polling location, and a voter’s clerk information will show. Under the clerk’s information is a phone number and email contact information if a voter has any other questions. 

What time the polls are open and when they close?

For anyone voting in person, election polls will be open on Nov. 3 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time. If you get in line but haven’t cast your ballot by the time polls close at 8 p.m., you have a right to cast your ballot.

How to do an absentee or mail-in ballot and how to return it

If you’re voting via absentee or by mail, you’ll first need to get an absentee ballot application. Voters don’t need an excuse or reason to vote by mail. 

Registered voters can either complete an application online or fill one out by hand. All voters were sent an absentee ballot application in August. If you did not receive one or cannot find it, you can get another by calling your city or township clerk and ask one to be mailed to you or download one yourself. After it’s been filled out, it can either be mailed in or delivered in person.

If you need contact information for your local clerk, you can find it by filling out the information here.

Absentee ballots applications can be requested from your city clerk by no later than 5 p.m. Friday on Oct. 30. 

The Secretary of State offers several variations of an absentee ballot application, including ones in Spanish. Find those options here. 

After you receive your absentee ballot, you can fill it out at your leisure. When it’s completed, you can either mail it to your clerk or deliver it in person. Your clerk must have received it by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

If you’d like to track the progress of your ballot or aren’t sure if it arrived, you can do so by looking up your voter information here.

Want to change your vote? Here’s how to spoil an absentee vote

If you’ve already mailed in your ballot and wish to change your vote either because your candidate dropped out or for any other reason, you can spoil your ballot.

You’ll need to submit a written request to your clerk. You must sign the request and state if you want the new ballot mailed to you or if you’d like to pick it up yourself.  

How to report a voting/polling problem (who to call/email etc.)

If there’s a voting or polling problem, voters are welcome to contact the Bureau of Elections. You can either mail a letter to their physical location or contact them by phone or email.

The letter should be addressed to:
Michigan Department of State
Bureau of Elections
PO Box 20126
Lansing, MI 48901-0726

If you’d like to call them, you can do so (517) 335-3234 (tel:5173353234). You can also email the election division of the bureau at elections@michigan.gov. You can contact the campaign finance division at Disclosure@Michigan.gov

How to register to be a poll worker

Similar to the Aug. 4 Primary election, the Secretary of State is accepting workers for the November election to help out at the polls. Positions are paid and all election workers would assist clerks and count ballots.

People who are hired would serve at polling places. They’ll need to undergo training on all proper protocols for assisting with elections, as well as adhering to safety guidelines like social distancing and using sanitary equipment. 

After you sign up, an official with the Department of State or other local election groups will be in touch with details about how to submit an application and receive the requisite training. 

If you’d like to work the polls on election day, you can sign up here

If you have any other questions you can learn more here