Opinion | How to guarantee your Michigan absentee ballot arrives on time

Roger Rapoport, of Muskegon, is producer of the feature film "Coming Up For Air" and the co-author of the forthcoming book "Grounded: Aviation’s Future in an Upside Down World."

During the recent primary elections, more than a half-million ballots were rejected nationwide, in many cases because they arrived too late to be counted.  Don’t let this happen to you on Nov. 4.

If you are submitting an absentee ballot by mail, there is an easy way to ensure that your local election office receives it on time. Given current disruptions at the postal service, it’s critical to get proof of delivery.  You can easily print out your postage at home or ensure delivery confirmation when you take your ballot to the post office.

Here’s what you need to do: First, print out priority mail postage online or put your ballot in a priority mail envelope and take it to the post office.  The cost, $7.70, is a small price to pay for peace of mind.  Keep your receipt and then check with the post office online to ensure your ballot was received.  You can also double-check with your local election office to confirm receipt.

Although these steps sound simple and cost-effective, it’s important to keep a few other key points in mind.  In some jurisdictions, you may need to have your ballot witnessed or placed inside a privacy sleeve. For clarification, visit your local election office website or call to check on the rules.

There are other delivery options such as United Parcel Service and FedEx, of course. If you can’t arrange a pickup, go to their local offices.  Keep in mind that if your priority mail package weighs more than 13 ounces, you need to apply a metered postage sticker.

While all this sounds pretty simple, most voters will assume it’s easier to put a 55-cent stamp on a ballot and send it off. In a normal election year, this might be safe. This isn't a "normal" year.

It’s important to make sure that any voter lacking internet or reliable transportation receives assistance.  First, make sure they have received, filled out and returned (hopefully by priority mail) their request for a ballot.  If the ballot does not arrive they can pick one up at their local election office. The ballot can be submitted here or mailed in as described above. If your friend doesn’t have internet you can help them print out postage on your computer and they’ll be able to send in their metered priority mail envelope from home.

Even with priority mail, Fed Ex or UPS it’s possible that your ballot may be held up.  If, after checking with the local election office, your ballot has not arrived, you can spoil it and fill out another that can be hand-delivered. To make sure your vote counts send in your ballot no later than Oct. 21. 

If all else fails with mailing, you can still spoil your absentee ballot and vote in person. Expect long lines on Election Day and be sure to take a bag lunch and something to drink.

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Wed, 10/14/2020 - 9:30am

The Michigan Secretary of State provides absentee ballot receipt confirmation online. Go to www.michigan.gov/vote , and click on Did my ballot arrive.

Wed, 10/14/2020 - 10:19am

Michigan should have a statewide process for handling absentee ballots. After completing the absentee ballot application, my local clerk e-mailed me when my ballot was mailed from the township office. Since the office was only a short walk away, I decided to return it in person. Later that day, I received another e-mail stating my ballot had been received.

I e-mailed the clerk with a few questions, among them when or if I would be notified if my returned ballot was faulty in any way that would cause it to be rejected. The clerk replied that signatures on the outer envelope were checked when the envelope was received. If the person has an e-mail or a phone number on file with the clerk, they would use that to notify a voter. Absent either of those, they would mail a letter to the voter explaining the problem.

It would be better if clerks could run ballots through the counting machine sooner rather than wait until the day of the election. Then there would be time to react to anything that would cause the ballot not to be accepted, which someone physically voting would see immediately when the tabulator returned the un-accepted ballot to them on the spot.

Good solid procedures statewide would go a long way in insuring the integrity of the elections.