Confusing Design Could See Absentee Ballots Mistakenly Returned to Detroit Voters

101.9 WDET received a report that a voter who mailed in their absentee ballot to the Detroit clerk’s office in late July received their ballot back in the mail two days later. It is too late to mail in your ballot and should be dropped off in-person.

Laura Herberg/WDET
Laura Herberg/WDET

This week’s Aug. 4th primary election is expected to have an influx of voters casting an absentee ballot. 

101.9 WDET received a report that a voter who mailed in their absentee ballot to the Detroit clerk’s office in late July received their ballot back in the mail two days later.

The ballot did not include any indication as to why it had been returned. Postage isn’t required on the envelope, the signature on the external envelope was present and the envelope was unopened. 

The ballot appears to have been mailed back to the voter rather than the clerk’s office because of a confusing white label that came pre-stamped on the back of the envelope. The label includes the voter’s full name and address, along with a barcode, and it’s easy to see how it could be mistaken for a mailing address.

“We are researching incidents of absentee ballots returned to Detroit voters.” — U.S. Postal Service

WDET reached out to the Detroit District of the United States Postal Service to find out if the post office has received complaints about ballots being returned to voters in Detroit. A spokesperson responded with the following statement:

“We are researching incidents of absentee ballots returned to Detroit voters. A Postal Service Mailpiece Design Analyst is working with the City of Detroit Clerk’s office to redesign the ballots for the next election cycle. We continue to work with the Secretary of State and all Michigan Boards of Election and look forward to a successful general election.”

The spokesperson said they could not provide any additional information.

WDET reached out to the Michigan Secretary of State’s office and a spokesperson there wrote, “We have worked extensively with USPS to improve the design of our ballot envelopes to ensure USPS equipment can process them most effectively and efficiently. Because of this work, ballots now get returned to voters quite infrequently, but very occasionally it does happen when USPS equipment misreads the envelope.”

WDET also reached out to the office of the Detroit Clerk and is waiting for a response.

Voters can check the status of their absentee ballot online. If a voter has not yet mailed their absentee ballot for the August 4th election, they will need to drop it off at their local clerk’s office. In order for a vote to count the outer envelope needs to be signed with a signature that matches the address on the voter’s state I.D. and the ballot needs to be received by the clerk no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day.

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  • Laura Herberg
    Laura Herberg is a Reporter for 101.9 WDET, telling the stories about people inhabiting the Detroit region and the issues that affect us here.