How you can vote by absentee ballot

Any partisan debates over the virtues of voting by mail are a moot point in Michigan. Anyone who wants to can vote by absentee ballot. No reason needs to be stated, as used to be the case before voters approved no-reason absentee voting in 2018.  If every voter in the state wants to vote by mail, they can.

There has been heightened interest in absentee voting as voters look for ways to reduce exposure to coronavirus during the pandemic. Today (September 24), the City Clerk's office started the process of mailing ballots to more than 18,000 Dearborn voters who have filled out applications to vote absentee, and that total will no doubt top 20,000 -- while in the 2016 presidential election, around 8,000 voted by absentee ballot. But, to be clear, in-person voting will take place as usual at your neighborhood polling place. Dearborn City Clerk George Darany advises that plenty of safety protocols will be in place for those who want to vote in person on Election Day.

Those who have never voted by absentee ballot may be surprised at how simple the process is.  Here's how Dearborn residents can vote from home:

1. Fill out an application. The Michigan Secretary of State's Office in May mailed absentee ballot applications to all registered voters.  If you misplaced or discarded that application, you can obtain an application at the City Clerk’s office at the Dearborn Administrative Center, you can call the clerk’s office at 943-2010 to ask to have an application mailed to you, OR you can download and print an application right now by clicking here. You can also apply for a ballot directly online by clicking here.

2. Submit the application. You can mail your completed and signed application to:
Dearborn Administrative Center
City Clerk George Darany
16901 Michigan Avenue
Dearborn, MI 48126

You can also place your application in the drop box outside the main entrance to the Dearborn Administrative Center, or turn it in at the clerk’s office counter at the Dearborn Administrative Center. Once we get into the middle of October, the drop box might be a better option than using the U.S. mail for submitting your application.

(If you live in Michigan but OUTSIDE OF DEARBORN, you can use the same application to submit to your local city or township clerk.)

3. Your ballot will be mailed to you. You can see on which day your ballot is mailed by entering your information at the "Your Voter Information" page on the state's Michigan Voter Information Center website by clicking here.

4. Return your completed ballot. This part is VERY IMPORTANT: Make sure you follow the instructions, including signing the return envelope that’s provided, and then mail it back to the clerk’s office. Or, you can drop it off in person, by 8 p.m. on election day. (Only you, a family member or a person living in your house can return your ballot if you don’t mail it.) And don't forget the drop box at the Dearborn Administrative Center, another sure and secure way to return your ballot.  After your ballot is received and scanned in by the clerk's office, you can verify that it has been received by again using the Michigan Voter Information Center, by clicking here.

That’s it. Simple. And minimal risk of virus exposure.

A few extra points about absentee voting

This can't be stressed enough: Follow the instructions carefully. If you don't sign the outside of your return envelope, or use your secrecy sleeve when putting your ballot into the return envelope, your vote will not be counted.

There is a check box on the application that will put you on Clerk Darany’s “permanent absentee voter list.” Voters on that list will be mailed an application before each election, every year. It doesn’t mean you have to vote by absentee ballot every year, you can disregard the application as you see fit and just go vote at your school, but you will get an application (which is a good reminder about an upcoming election) for every election.

If you have mailed an application but haven’t received your ballot by a week before the election, call the clerk’s office.

If you return the ballot by mail, put it in the mail no later than a week before the election so it’s sure to get to the clerk’s office in time. It doesn’t matter when it is postmarked, the ballot has to physically arrive in the clerk’s office by 8 p.m. on election day, or it won’t be counted. (A court decision has granted some leeway with this, but it is subject to appeal. Simply, DON'T WAIT!)

Even if you get an absentee ballot, you can still change your mind and vote in person at your local school or polling place by taking your unfilled absentee ballot to surrender at the in-person voting location. You can even actually change your vote after you mail in your absentee ballot, as long as you go to the clerk’s office by the day before the election.


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