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Everything to know about voting in person in Detro...

Everything to know about voting in person in Detroit this Election Day

From registering to vote on Election Day to how election workers are keeping safe, here's what to know about voting in person in Detroit.

vote in person detroit

Heading to the polls today? Here’s everything you need to know about the election in Detroit as a voter. From how to register on the spot to finding your polling place, from ID requirements to Election Day transportation, we’ve got you covered. If there’s something you still need to know, submit a question here

How do I register to vote on Election Day?

You must register in-person at your clerk’s office or, in Detroit, at a satellite voting center.

You must provide proof of residency, which is a document with your name and current address. Paper or electronic documents are acceptable. Accepted proof of residency documents include: 

  • a Michigan driver’s license or state ID card, 
  • a utility bill, a bank statement, 
  • a paycheck, 
  • a government check or 
  • any other government document.

Can I register to vote without a photo ID or proof of citizenship?

Yes, you can register to vote without a photo ID or proof of citizenship. You will be asked for a photo ID if you register in person, but if you don’t have one, you are allowed to register without it by signing a form. (You will still need another proof of residency as listed above.)

Where is my clerk’s office?

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey’s office is located at 2978 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit, 48235. The phone number is (313) 224-3260.

Election Day hours:  7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Outside of Detroit, find your clerk’s office location and contact information by entering your address here.

When are the polls open?

The polls are open on Election Day, Nov. 3, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Where is my polling place? 

You can find your polling place by entering your personal information on the Michigan Voter Information Center site.  

The Detroit Elections Department has a full list of polling locations for the Nov. 3 election. The city also notes, as of Oct. 12, two polling place location changes from previous elections: 

The polling location for the Nov. 3 election for both Precinct 277 and Precinct 280 is Henry Ford High School, 20000 Evergreen, Detroit, MI 48219. Both precincts’ polling places were formerly Cambridge Towers, 19101 Evergreen, Detroit, MI 48219. 

Where else can I vote on Election Day? 

Detroit voters have several options to vote on Nov. 3. You can cast your ballot on Election Day at your polling place, at a satellite voting center, at the clerk’s office or from your vehicle in one location — New Providence Baptist Church in Detroit (18211 Plymouth Rd, Detroit, MI 48228) is hosting a drive-thru voting site. All locations are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

I’m already registered to vote. What do I need to bring with me? Do I need a photo ID?

If you have a photo ID and or your voter identification card, bring them with you. You will be asked to show a photo ID, but you are not required to have one. If you do not, you will be asked to sign an affidavit that will allow you to vote. 

If you registered to vote on or after Oct. 20, you will need to bring the receipt of your voter registration with you when you go to vote at the polls, according to the ACLU. 

If it’s your first time voting in Michigan, and you registered through the mail or a voter registration drive, you may need to show documentation when you go to vote at the polls. According to the ACLU, paper or electronic documents that you can bring include: a photo ID with your name and picture (regardless of the address or with no address), driver’s license or personal ID card from any state, high school or college ID, passport, military or government-issued photo ID or tribal ID.

You can also use documents with your name and address, including a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck stub, government check or any other government document.

Remember to also wear a face mask.

If you run into any issues or are told that you don’t have the necessary ID to vote, contact the election protection hotline: 866-OUR-VOTE.

What if my polling place doesn’t have me on its list of registered voters?

You can show the receipt from when you registered to vote if you have it. Give a poll worker your address — they will be able to tell you if you’re at the right polling place. If you’re not, find your polling place here

If you are at the right polling place but they still don’t have you on file, you can still go register to vote at the clerk’s office

If you can’t go to the clerk’s office with the required proof of residency you need, you may be able to vote at your polling place with a provisional ballot, for which you’ll need to sign an affidavit affirming you believe you are already registered to vote. If you have a photo ID with your address, your ballot will be counted on Election Day, and if you don’t, it will be separated for review. You’ll have six days to go to the clerk’s office to prove you’re a registered voter. 

How do I fill out my ballot?

Make sure to fill out the front and back of your ballot. To make your selection, fill in the circle entirely without going outside the lines in blue or black ink. 

Make sure to select only as many options as the instructions say for each section — some races have multiple open positions, so you can select more than one candidate. For example, you can only select one presidential candidate, but you can vote for up to three candidates in the Detroit school board race. 

Your vote will still count if you picked fewer than the maximum number of selections allowed. (For example, if you only selected one or two candidates for the Detroit school board.) You can also skip individual races or sections of the ballot and the rest of your votes will still be counted. 

How do I vote a ‘straight party ticket,’ or for all candidates of one party?

There are three sections of the ballot: partisan, nonpartisan and proposals. For the first section, you can select a political party to automatically vote for the candidates of that party in each of the partisan races. You can only select one party: Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, U.S. Taxpayers, Working Class, Green or Natural Law. Or, you can make your selections individually for each race in that section. 

In the nonpartisan section and proposal section, you will still need to make individual selections even if you choose to vote a straight party ticket. 

Can I vote for a write-in candidate?

You can vote for any write-in candidate that has filed a Declaration of Intent with the Secretary of State for a particular race. Check the full list of those candidates and the corresponding races here.

If you write in the name of someone who hasn’t filed with the Secretary of State, your vote for that race won’t count.

What if I make a mistake on my ballot when I’m voting at my polling place?

If you make a mistake on your ballot, ask for a new one. If the scanner rejects your ballot, ask for a new one. If the tabulator machine isn’t working, you can place your completed ballot into a bin in the tabulator machine. Election workers will help you in all of these situations.

Can I vote at the polls if I requested an absentee ballot?

If you already returned your ballot, track it here to see if it has been received by your city clerk. If it hasn’t, an election worker at your polling place will help you spoil your ballot. (If your ballot has been received by your clerk, you cannot vote at the polls.)

If you requested an absentee ballot but it never arrived, you will be able to vote at the polls. If you requested an absentee ballot but never returned it, you can vote at the polls, and you should bring your absentee ballot with you if you still have it. When you are at the polls, tell an election worker the status of your absentee ballot. You will need to sign a form to spoil, or cancel, the absentee ballot and will be given a new ballot to vote in person.

How can I get to the polls on Election Day if I can’t drive myself?

You are allowed to get a ride to the polls from an unpaid volunteer (that would include a friend or family member.)

The Detroit Bus Company is offering free rides to the polls on Election Day, and so are several other groups.

MoGo will still offer free rides on Nov. 3, the bike-sharing service confirmed to Detour. The “Roll to the Polls” deal can be activated on the Transit app or at any MoGo bike kiosk. It includes one hour of free service.

You can also take public transit — because of COVID-19, SMART and DDOT buses are free. If you plan to take public transportation to your polling place or to your nearest drop box or satellite voting center, the Transit app can help you find the quickest route there. All buses require that you wear a mask.

Note that there are some changes to bus service due to COVID-19. You can check SMART bus changes here and DDOT changes here. The QLINE and People Mover are not currently operating. 

What can I do as a voter to limit my exposure to COVID-19 while voting? 

The Brennan Center and the Infectious Diseases Society of America have several recommendations for steps you should take to limit risk for yourself and other voters:

  • Wear a mask to the voting location and while casting your ballot
  • Maintain social distancing of at least six feet from other voters and poll workers
  • Avoid bringing any unnecessary persons, such as children or other non-voting eligible family members, to the voting location

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has also issued guidelines for voters.

A public health order issued by the Detroit Health Department on Oct. 9 states that wearing a mask in public that covers your mouth and nose is not required for people voting at their polling place, but it is strongly encouraged. 

You can also vote at the drive-thru voting location on Election Day (New Providence Baptist Church, 18211 Plymouth Rd, Detroit, MI 48228) which will reduce your contact with other people.

What are election officials doing to limit COVID-19 transmission risks this election season?

On Election Day, Detroit’s polling places will have personal protection equipment and temperature checks onsite. All election workers are equipped with masks, gloves and cleaning supplies, and they’re trained in hygiene and social distancing protocols.

“All election workers are required to wear masks, all voters are strongly encouraged to do so, and my administration has provided masks, gloves, sanitizer and more to jurisdictions statewide,” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said on Nov. 2. 

If voters have a fever, they will be separated and vote in a designated area. 

What do I do if I have a problem voting? 

If you are having difficulty voting or someone is trying to intimidate or harass you, tell a poll worker. If they are the one causing the issue or can’t fix the problem, MichiganVoting.org advises to call your clerk. If that does not solve the problem, call the election protection hotline. 

What is the election protection hotline?

866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) is a national nonpartisan voter helpline administered by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. You can also access the hotline in other languages: 

You can also report absentee and in-person voting problems to ProPublica’s Electionland tipline. (Detour is an Electionland partner.) Sign up and share your election experience by texting the word VOTE, VOTA (for Spanish) or 投票 (for Chinese) to 81380. You can also go to m.me/electionland on Facebook Messenger, or complete the form here.

What are poll challengers, and what are they allowed to do?

A poll challenger is appointed by a political party or a qualified interest group to observe the election process. They may challenge the actions of election workers or the eligibility of a person to vote, but they must always do so through election workers; they are not allowed to talk directly to voters at the polls.

A poll challenger may challenge your eligibility to vote if they have “good reason to believe” that you are not a resident of the city or township where you are trying to vote, that you are not yet 18 years old, that you are not a U.S. citizen or that you have already voted by absentee ballot and are attempting to vote again. (Voter fraud through these or other channels is very rare, according to researchers.) 

A challenge to a person’s voting eligibility can’t be based on an “impression” like race, appearance or English-speaking ability. According to the Michigan Secretary of State, challenges are usually “based on research conducted before Election Day.”  

Challengers aren’t allowed to take any pictures in the polling location. They must have an official identification card from the party or organization that they represent, and they can be expelled from a polling place if election workers deem them “disorderly.”

What are poll watchers, and what are they allowed to do? 

A “poll watcher” is anyone who wishes to observe the election process but is not a qualified poll challenger. They have none of the powers of poll challengers and cannot challenge election workers or voters. They may not approach voters at the polls.

Groups like the Michigan Conservative Coalition’s Guard the Vote plan to send at least one poll watcher to each of Detroit’s absentee ballot counting boards on Election Day. The groups are focused on sending poll watchers to Democrat-leaning locales like Detroit and Flint amid an atmosphere in which Trump has told his supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully.

Other groups, including the ACLU and the NAACP, plan to send watchers to watch the watchers.Federal law prohibits the intimidation of voters, which can be a form of voter suppression. If you experience aggressive questioning, harassment, or other intimidating behavior, seek help from election workers or call the election protection hotline.

What happens if a poll challenger challenges my voting qualifications?

In the unlikely event that your voting qualifications are challenged, a poll challenger must bring their challenge to the election workers at the precinct where you are attempting to vote. 

Depending on the kind of challenge, election workers might consult their voter records (to verify that you have not already voted by absentee ballot, for example) or they might ask you to answer questions about your voting eligibility under oath. These questions are limited to your residency, age and citizenship.

Challenged voters whose answers under oath prove that they are qualified to vote will be  allowed to vote with a “challenged ballot.” Challenged voters may not vote if they refuse to take the oath, refuse to answer questions or give answers that show they are not qualified. 

A “challenged ballot” looks exactly like a normal ballot and is filled out, processed and counted in the same way as a normal ballot. Election workers make a record of the challenge that includes your information and that of the challenger involved, and they mark the ballot number on the back of the ballot in case it needs to be retrieved. 

The ballot cannot be retrieved for inspection unless a court order is obtained, which has typically been extremely rare in Michigan, Washtenaw County Director of Elections Edward Golembiewski told Detour.

Can people bring guns to the polls?

Voters and others are allowed to openly carry guns at the polls (and at early voting locations) with the exception of polling places located in churches and schools, where firearms are prohibited.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson attempted to ban guns at polling places on election day, but the ban was overturned.


Maggie McMillin is an Elections SOS fellow with Detour Detroit.

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