• Gary Woronchak

With two weeks to go, vital and timely info for absentee voters

COURT RULING REVERSED, BALLOTS DUE NOV. 3

The Michigan Court of Appeals on Friday overturned a lower court ruling that would have allowed absentee ballots to be counted if received by the city clerk up to two weeks after the election, as long as they were postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 3. This means your absentee ballot must be returned to the City Clerk no later than 8 p.m. on Nov. 3, or it will not be counted. This ruling has an impact on how a voter should return their absentee ballot.


MAILING YOUR BALLOT? DO IT THIS WEEK (and then TRACK IT to be sure)

If you mail your ballot this week sometime, by Friday, Oct. 23, it should get to the clerk by Nov. 3. In theory, and in previous years, you could mail your ballot a few days before the election and it would get to the clerk on time. That is out the window this year, since mail delivery has been so unpredictable. In light of Friday's Court of Appeals decision, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says you should put your ballot in the mail Monday (Oct. 19, which may have passed by the time you're reading this). My opinion is that anytime this week should be fine, as long as you follow up and track your ballot online (scroll down to learn how). But, ASAP is best.


BETTER WAYS THAN MAIL TO RETURN YOUR BALLOT

If you are able, you should avoid using the U.S. mail to return your ballot. Instead, take your ballot to the Dearborn Administrative Center, 16901 Michigan Ave., and put it in either of the two drop boxes outside the main entrance (behind the building), or go inside and submit it to City Clerk George Darany’s Office. You can also take it to the staffed drop-off locations Clerk Darany has arranged at Hubbard Manor East, 5500 Calhoun, and Hubbard Manor West, 22077 Beech, Monday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.


NO MATTER WHAT, TRACK YOUR BALLOT ONLINE

Voters can, and should, use the state's voter information website to track their ballot and make sure it has been received by the clerk's office. It's remarkably simple: Click here, fill in the information, and it will take you to a personalized page that will have a section (upper right corner) with your absentee ballot information. It shows when the City Clerk’s Office mailed it to you, and when the clerk’s office received it back from you. If you return your ballot by U.S. mail, you definitely should make sure it has been received. But even if you put your ballot in a drop box, I think you should check to make sure your ballot was scanned in by the clerk as having been received. Viewing that it's listed as received is as close as you can get to feeding your ballot yourself into the counting machine at your local polling place.


IF YOU RETURNED YOUR BALLOT BUT TRACKING DOESN'T SHOW IT WAS RECEIVED

If you used or will use U.S. mail to return your ballot, you will want to track it online, as described above. If it does not show that the City Clerk's Office has received your ballot by Saturday morning, Oct. 31, I suggest you -- unfortunately -- will have to go to the Clerk's Office that day (open until 3 p.m.) or on Monday, Nov. 2 (open until 7 p.m.) to void the ballot they did not receive and get a new ballot. You would then either fill out and return the new ballot right there, or take it home and return it to the drop box before 8 p.m.Tuesday. Yes, this is a major hassle, but some will run into this situation because of the unreliability of the mail.


WHAT IF I HAVEN'T RECEIVED MY BALLOT YET?

Check online, as described above (click here), to see when the clerk's office mailed it to you, or call the clerk's office at 943-2010. Arrival times in mailboxes has varied wildly. A few got them right away, for some it took two weeks or even more. For me, it took a full week to receive my ballots for both the August and November elections. If you can find the patience, and I know it's difficult, I could see still waiting until the end of this week, even if your ballot was mailed to you in late September. It should show up. But by then, I recommend strongly you NOT return it by U.S. mail, and use one of the alternatives I listed earlier.


WHEN SHOULD I GIVE UP ON RECEIVING MY BALLOT, AND WHAT THEN?

Whenever you feel you've waited long enough for your ballot, you'll have to go to City Clerk George Darany's office to have them void the ballot you haven't yet received, and issue you a new one, which they will hand to you on the spot. At that point you can take it home, vote, and return it to the drop box, or you can vote right then and there. I recommend doing this by Friday, Oct. 30, if you've been waiting a long time for your ballot and it hasn't arrived.


YOU CAN STILL GET AN ABSENTEE BALLOT

You can still vote by absentee ballot even if you haven't already applied for a ballot. You can still mail an application and have the clerk mail you a ballot, up until Oct. 30. But, given the situation with the mail, it's more advisable to go to the City Clerk's Office in person and get a ballot, which you can take home to drop off later, or complete right there. Full information on voting by absentee ballot can be found by clicking here.


YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR MIND AND VOTE IN PERSON

After all the fuss about absentee ballots, some might prefer to not use the ballot they've received and instead vote in person at their local polling place. You can do that, but you'll have to surrender your absentee ballot. You can't get a ballot at your local school on Election Day if you have an outstanding absentee ballot. The best way to handle this is to surrender your ballot in person at the City Clerk's Office anytime prior to 10 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 2. You can also take your ballot to your polling place and surrender it there on Election Day, but that will take extra time and hold up the line. At the polling place, the poll worker will have to get ahold of someone at the clerk's office to have them spoil your absentee ballot before issuing you a ballot there.


YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR VOTES AFTER YOU'VE RETURNED YOUR BALLOT

If you want to change any of your votes after you've submitted your ballot to the City Clerk's Office, you must spoil your ballot at the clerk's office by 10 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 2. After 10 a.m. that Monday, absentee ballots will begin to be processed (not counted until Tuesday) and your submitted ballot is locked in.


CITY CLERK OFFERS EXTENDED HOURS

City Clerk George Darany's office at the Dearborn Administrative Center will be open some evenings and weekends leading up to the election, beyond the DAC's regular hours, which are 8 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m. The City Clerk's Office will also be open for election business 5-7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; 8 a.m.-2 p.m. this Saturday, Oct. 24, and on Saturday, Oct. 31, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. On Monday, Nov. 2, the day before the election, the Clerk’s Office will extend hours until 7 p.m. for election business only. The Clerk's Office phone number is 943-2010. Remember that admittance into the DAC lobby is limited due to the coronavirus, so lines can extend outdoors.


YOU CAN VOTE IN PERSON

Your regular polling place will be open as usual on Election Day, Nov. 3, from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Safety protocols will be observed for coronavirus. More than 20,000 absentee ballots have been sent to residents, thousands more than in previous elections, so that should make in-person voting less congested on Nov. 3.


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