Michigan election officials prepare for flood of absentee ballots as return deadline nears

430,000 ballots have already been returned

Photo Credit: Laura Herberg, WDET

Absentee ballots continue to trickle into Michigan clerks’ offices — and are still outpacing the previous midterm election in 2018.

Over 1.6 million ballots have been sent out, and 430,000 ballots have been returned. That’s about double the number from four years ago.

Voters can still register in person at their clerk’s office until 8 p.m. on Election Day. Though the final day to register to vote online or via mail is Monday, October 24.

That’s also the date officials suggest to mail absentee ballots back by to avoid mail delays. Michigan’s midterm elections take place on Tuesday, November 8.

Recently, the Republican-led state legislature passed a bill — one that Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed — detailing strict rules for absentee ballot drop boxes. Those rules go into effect today.

Clerks have asked the Republican-led state legislature to be able to process and count absentee ballots leading up to election day, but the bill only allowed clerks to get the ballots ready to be counted.

Jake Rollow with the Michigan Department of State says they’ve been trying to educate clerks on the new guidelines.

“We have been doing some webinars and sharing information with clerks, just to make sure that they understand those requirements, trying to sort of take the law and break it down into plain language and also answer questions for clerks,” Rollow says.

Despite these changes to state law allowing for absentee ballots to be processed two days in advance, Rollow shares some municipalities aren’t going to be taking advantage of that ability.

“The reality is the bill came so close to the election, and some clerks have already hired their staff or just aren’t quite sure that the trade off is worth it because of the limited scope of the bill,” he says. “So they’re not planning to take advantage of it this year.”

Rollow says it will still take about 24 hours after the polls close to have the unofficial count completed.

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  • Russ McNamara
    Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.