Voted absentee in Detroit? It’s time to track yo...

Voted absentee in Detroit? It’s time to track your ballot

Give yourself peace of mind -- or resolve any issues.

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We recently heard from a Detour reader that her absentee ballot was not shown as received by the city clerk, two weeks after she returned it at a drop box.

First, let’s be clear: there is still time to address problems with absentee ballot request or return, and the City Clerk Janice Winfrey has assured Detroiters that everyone who requests a ballot will receive one. After the ACLU of Michigan sued last month, alleging up to 70,000 absentee ballot requests in Detroit went unfilled for multiple weeks, Winfrey has pledged a 24-hour turnaround on ballot requests.

In a press conference on Thursday, Winfrey said absentee ballots are being sent out “daily,” mailed overnight and hand-delivered when requested — and that the city is prepared to process ballots, no matter how high the voter turnout. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has been helping Winfrey oversee the election since September, and the partnership has brought additional resources and support to the local election system. 

Still, we want to make sure that all your ballot-related questions are answered in case any problems do arise.

If you haven’t already, check the status of your ballot with the Michigan Voter Information Center. And if your ballot is not where you expected it to be, let us know here!

All the information below (plus a whole lot more) can also be found in our Detroit voting guide. Check it out and tell us if there are any questions we missed.

I voted absentee and sent my ballot by mail or returned it at a dropbox. How do I check if it was received?

You can track the status of your absentee ballot: whether your request has been received, whether your ballot has been mailed to you and finally whether your ballot has been received by your clerk. Track your ballot by entering your voter information at the Michigan Voter Information Center.   

Detroit voters can also use BallotTrax, a third-party tool that tracks ballots using USPS Intelligent Mail Barcode data combined with voter information provided by the city clerk. In theory, BallotTrax can provide additional information about your ballot’s status — including if it has been delivered to you or accepted by your clerk’s office. However, in the August primary — the first time the city offered the BallotTrax service — some voters found incomplete or inconsistent information via BallotTrax. If you have problems while using BallotTrax, please let us know

I returned my absentee ballot by mail or a dropbox and it’s not marked as received. What do I do? 

First, call your clerk. They will be able to confirm whether your ballot has been received. Because of postal delays in the Detroit area, some ballots might take longer than usual to arrive.

If your clerk has not received your ballot, it could be lost or stuck in the mail. You’ll need to spoil your ballot and revote.

To spoil your ballot before Election Day, go to your clerk’s office before 4 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 2. Request to spoil your missing ballot and receive a new one, and then complete your new ballot right then and there and leave it with your clerk.

You also have the option of instead going to your polling location on Election Day. Election workers will check their records to make sure that your ballot hasn’t been received. If it has been received they’ll let you know and send you home. If it hasn’t been received, they’ll ask you to sign a form to cancel your absentee ballot and then allow you to vote in person at the polling place.

My absentee ballot was rejected. What do I do?

Ballots are most commonly rejected because of a forgotten or mismatched signature on the envelope. If your absentee ballot is marked as rejected in the Michigan Voter Information Center portal, your clerk is required by law to attempt to contact you via phone call, email or letter to verify your identity. Contact your clerk for more instructions.

You can also visit your clerk’s office before 10 a.m. on Monday Nov. 2 to spoil your rejected ballot and revote.

tips for filling out your absentee ballot

What if I already submitted my absentee ballot but want to change my vote? 

You can go to the clerk’s office to sign a written request to spoil your ballot and request a new one until 10 a.m. on Nov. 2. 

If you submitted your absentee ballot and it is received by the clerk, you cannot change your vote after 10 a.m. on Nov. 2 or on Election Day.

What if I received an absentee ballot but it has an error or I make a mistake?

First, don’t throw it out. You can contact or go to the clerk’s office to spoil your first absentee ballot and request a new one until 4 p.m., Nov. 2. Save your original ballot and bring it with you if possible. 

You can also go to your polling place on Election Day and complete a form to cancel your absentee ballot and revote — again, bring the original absentee ballot if possible. 

What if I received my absentee ballot but would rather vote at the polls on Election Day? 

Save your absentee ballot and bring it with you when you go to vote at your polling place. You’ll surrender your absentee ballot, and then you’ll be issued a new ballot that you can use to vote. If you lose your absentee ballot, you can still vote at the polls and will have to sign a form. 

I requested an absentee ballot but it never arrived. Can I still vote? 

Yes. You can contact or go to your clerk’s office to cancel your first absentee ballot and request a new one until 4 p.m., Nov. 2. Or, you can go to your polling place on Election Day, tell a poll worker you didn’t receive your absentee ballot and then complete a form to vote. 

I haven’t requested an absentee ballot yet. Do I still have time?

You can request and receive your absentee ballot in person at your clerk’s office or a satellite vote center in Detroit through 4 p.m., Nov. 2, then vote in the same visit.

I completed my absentee ballot but I’m unable to drop it off in person. What do I do? 

Since it’s too late to mail your ballot, you’ll need to have someone drop it off at the clerk’s office or a ballot drop box for you. 

Michigan election law allows absentee voters to seek assistance in returning their ballots from a mail-handler, their clerk, an assistant to the clerk, a person living in the household or a member of the immediate family.

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 in 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.

Maggie McMillin is an Elections SOS fellow with Detour Detroit.