Ballots being prepared for early voters. Photo courtesy Taylor City Clerk Cindy Bower.
Ballots being prepared for early voters. Photo courtesy Taylor City Clerk Cindy Bower.

The first votes in Michigan’s Nov. 3 election have already been cast, thanks to early voting which began Thursday.

MICHIGAN—Michiganders are already voting in the November election. 

As of Thursday, the ability to do early, in-person voting began, formally kicking off the 2020 Presidential Election in the Mitten. In addition, city clerks have begun mailing out absentee ballots requested by Michiganders to be mailed in.

“The most important thing is that voters make a plan and they vote as soon as they can,” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told reporters as she unveiled new ballot drop-off boxes across the state Tuesday, commemorating Voter Registration Day. “The more we are able to spread out the way people vote this year, the easier it is on our local clerks.”

Doing everything early is critical in 2020, from registering to vote to casting your ballot, explains Vox. Between expected record-shattering voter turnout, the controversies surrounding the Postal Service, and the false information being used to mislead or intimidate voters, the challenges to voting are high. Allowing a ballot as much time as possible to be delivered, processed and prepared for counting when polls close on Election Day could be essential to ensuring a smooth election.

Vote Early, Vote Safe

Despite the understanding that high voter turnout will make the election result take longer to determine, city clerks are optimistic about handling the expected record influx of early voting. Already, the city of Taylor has sent more than 12,000 ballots by mail, in addition to what people will request ballots later or come in to vote early in person. 

“I think the August primary showed this can work despite high volumes,” said Karl Ziomek, communications director for the Taylor City Clerk’s office. “I haven’t heard of any problems with the process as of right now.”

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Early voting, like mail-in voting, is part of the absentee voting process, so ballots filled out at or delivered to local clerks’ offices won’t be fed into voting machines. Instead they will be held securely until the day before the election when local clerks can prepare the ballots to be counted after polls close Nov. 3. 

Voting early, either in person or by mail, is a valid option that Ziomek encourages. Both in light of concerns about election-day voting during a global health crisis but also to enable people who for one reason or another can’t make time on Election Day to vote.

“That’s a great way to vote. I personally vote that way. The President votes that way,” he told The ‘Gander. “You [can] vote absentee and be safe and sound that way and still get your say in this election.”

And early voting is a flexible process.

The Many Methods of Early Voting

Harbor Springs Clerk Nick Whitaker advised residents to take their time with early voting, even picking up an absentee ballot and delivering it later. 

“It’s a two-sided ballot and just gives people more time to review the ballot and maybe think about what options they’re going to choose in the comfort of their own home instead of having to come to the polls and feel they’re under pressure to vote in five minutes,” said Whitaker.

In the August primary, Michiganders told The ‘Gander they felt more informed when they were able to vote from home, being able to research lesser-known cases, down ballot races, and ballot initiatives. And in addition to taking home an absentee ballot from a local clerk’s office, almost 2.5 million Michiganders have already requested an absentee ballot in the mail for November’s election.

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But it’s key for Michiganders to remember that ballot drop boxes that absentee ballots can be securely delivered to aren’t mailboxes. People must find a ballot drop box in their community, connected to their precincts. 

“They are drop boxes managed by the local clerks,” Benson said. “So wherever your local community is, is where the drop box you can use.”

For those mail-in ballots, while a recent court decision would ensure ballots postmarked by Nov. 2 will be counted the United States Postal Service nonetheless recommended to The ‘Gander mailing out a vote at least two weeks before the election to ensure it is delivered to city clerks. As such, Michigan election officials encourage voters to mail in their ballots as soon as possible. 

You can request an absentee ballot or find your local clerk’s office for early voting at michigan.gov/vote.