Have COVID-19 symptoms? Don’t go to the polls &#...

Have COVID-19 symptoms? Don’t go to the polls — but you can still vote

Here's how to request an emergency ballot if you wake up feeling sick on Election Day.

sick woman checking temperature. how to vote if you have covid 19 symptoms - request an emergency ballot in michigan instead of going to the polls

To avoid a situation where you are unexpectedly sick on Election Day when you planned to vote at the polls, Michigan and Detroit city officials highly recommend voting early, whether in-person or by dropping off your absentee ballot. You can request and vote your absentee ballot in one visit at a satellite voting center in Detroit every day until Election Day, and there are also 30 ballot drop boxes around the city.

But what if you wake up with COVID-19 symptoms or are exposed in the days leading up to Election Day? “I don’t recommend, under any circumstances, that someone who is sick with COVID go into a polling place,” Aghogho Edevbie, Michigan director of the nonprofit advocacy group All Voting is Local, told Detour. You also should avoid going to vote at a satellite voting center if you test positive for COVID-19.

How to request an emergency ballot if you’re sick or can’t get to the polls

Instead, request an emergency absentee ballot. These ballots can be voted from anywhere, including from a hospital. Requests can be made starting at 5 p.m. on Oct. 30 and up until 4 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3. Like all ballots, emergency ballots must be returned to your clerk’s office by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.

To obtain an emergency ballot you must have someone deliver your written request for the ballot to your clerk with your written and signed authorization that the person can pick up and deliver your ballot.

“The person making the application may also authorize the person delivering the application to pick up and deliver in writing,” a Michigan Secretary of State spokeswoman said. “The authorization must be in writing and signed by the applicant.”

“Make it clear on the request that [that person] is authorized to pick up the ballot for you and deliver the ballot to you — socially distanced, of course,” said Edevbie.

Voting an emergency ballot if you don’t have a person to assist you

If you don’t have someone available to assist you, an election official can help. Michigan law guarantees voters the right to vote by emergency ballot, and Detroit’s Department of Elections told Detour that officials are available to assist voters who need emergency absentee ballots. Contact your clerk for specific information about how you can request and return your ballot and who is available to help you. 

“Ballots that are issued through the emergency process are treated like any other absentee ballot,” says Edevbie, “and they’re counted through that [same] process.”

Getting help if you have a problem voting

If you experience any issues voting on Election Day or beforehand, you can call the nonpartisan election protection hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE. See here for help other languages.

Detour is also partnering with ProPublica’s Electionland project to track voting issues — like mail ballot delivery problems, changed voting locations, long lines, registration problems, purged voter rolls, broken machines and voter intimidation. If you experience or witness any problems when casting your ballot, let us know — you can sign up ahead of time by texting the word VOTE to 81380, or use the text service when an issue arises. 

  • SMS: Text the word VOTE, VOTA (for Spanish) or 投票 (for Chinese) to 81380 (standard text message rates apply). 
  • WhatsApp: Send the word VOTE, VOTA (for Spanish) or 投票 (for Chinese) to 1-850-909-8683.
  • Facebook Messenger: Go to m.me/electionland
  • Complete this form to share your election experience with us so ProPublica and our partners can investigate. More info on the tipline here.

Have another question about voting or the election in Detroit? Fill out this quick form to ask Detour reporters directly.

More Detroit elections coverage from Detour:

Everything to know about early voting in Detroit
Here are all of Detroit’s ballot drop boxes and satellite voting centers
How accessible is voting in Detroit?
Does Detroit have enough poll workers?

Maggie McMillin is an Elections SOS fellow with Detour Detroit.