Masks, sanitizer and absentee ballots: What to know about Michigan’s primary

Voters who head to polling places should expect more sanitization and social distancing but don't count on fellow voters wearing masks, as polling places are exempt from the governor's mask mandate. (Shutterstock)

Record numbers of absentee voters and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic guarantee Tuesday will be an Election Day unlike any other in Michigan. 

Voters who head to polling places should expect more sanitization and social distancing during the first statewide election since the pandemic began in Michigan.

But don’t bet on fellow voters wearing masks, as polling places are exempt from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s mask mandate. And prepare for the possibility of late results because of a high number of absentee ballots.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson promoted the option this year, spending $4.5 million in federal coronavirus stimulus money to mail absentee ballot applications to all of the state’s 7.7 million registered voters.  As of Monday, the number of returned ballots was 1,289,025, nearly three times the 456,220 returned at the same time in 2016. 

A handful of highly competitive primaries have the potential to decide the results of their races Tuesday, but most voters will be deciding who will face off against the candidate of the other party in November. Many voters will also choose whether to approve local ordinances or millages. 

Here’s what you need to know: 

What will be on the ballot?

Tuesday’s election will not determine which candidates are elected to the office they’re running for. 

Instead, voters will be deciding which candidate they’d like to represent their political party in the general election on Nov. 3.

That will include candidates for one U.S. Senate seat, all 14 of Michigan’s U.S. House seats, all 110 state House seats, several local offices such as prosecutor or clerk, and a number of local ballot issues such as millages for schools or public services.

Can I still register to vote?

Yes, voters can register to vote up to and on Election Day in Michigan. But if you haven’t yet registered, don’t go to your polling place. 

Instead, go to your local clerk’s office before 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Bring something showing proof of where you live. It can be in electronic or physical form. 

Document options include: 

  • a Michigan driver’s license or state ID
  • a current utility bill
  • a bank statement
  • a paycheck
  • a government check
  • another government document

While you’re there, you can request an absentee ballot, fill it out and return it there to vote.

What are the most competitive races?

Because this is a primary, those with the most at stake on Tuesday are people who live in highly conservative or liberal areas where whoever wins the party’s nomination has a significant advantage to win the office in November. 

Perhaps the most competitive primary race is in the 13th Congressional District, which represents portions of Detroit and surrounding suburbs. Though its boundaries have changed slightly over redistricting cycles, the district has elected Democrats for decades. 

It’s now held by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, a progressive who faces a rematch against Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones. She held the seat briefly in 2018 to finish former Rep. John Conyers Jr.’s term and narrowly lost in a crowded field for the full 2018-2020 term. 

Other competitive races include the 10th Congressional District in Michigan’s Thumb region and the 3rd Congressional District encompassing Grand Rapids and Battle Creek in West Michigan. 

In the 10th, multiple candidates are vying to succeed U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden Township, in this reliably Republican district in Michigan’s Thumb. Mitchell announced last year he would not seek re-election after only two terms. State Rep. Shane Hernandez of Port Huron, who leads the state’s House Appropriations Committee, is running against businesswoman Lisa McClain and former Air Force Brig. Gen. Dough Slocum, who commanded the Selfridge Air National Guard Base near Mount Clemens.

In the 3rd, five Republicans are facing off to replace U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, L-Cascade Township. This district is more politically purple than the 10th or the 13th, but it favors Republicans and has chosen GOP candidates since the early 1990s. 

Amash has publicly criticized Trump and left the Republican party last year. He formally announced he would not be seeking re-election just last month. Peter Meijer, heir of the grocery-store chain and an Iraq War veteran, is the frontrunner but faces challenges from state Rep. Lynn Afendoulis, businessman Joe Farrington, former village president Tom Norton and attorney Emily Rafi.

The 8th and 11th Congressional Districts in southeast Michigan are also ones to watch on Tuesday. These races won’t be decided by who wins this week, but the results will set the stage for what is likely to be fierce competitions for the seats in these swing districts held by first-term Democratic Reps. Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens. 

Can I vote for candidates of both political parties?

No, you cannot “split” your ticket during the August primary — if you do, your candidate votes won’t count. Choose one political party and vote only for candidates in that party. The political party you choose is not public record.

Can I vote in person?

Yes, anyone can vote in person on Tuesday. Enter your information here to see whether you’re registered to vote and where your polling place is (under “Election Information.”)

When will polls be open? 

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday. 

Do I need an ID to vote?

While voters are encouraged to bring photo ID to the polls, you don’t have to. Voters without a photo ID just need to sign an affidavit saying they don’t have one or have one with them. It doesn’t change the way the ballot is processed or counted.  

Do I need to wear a mask at the polls?

Masks are encouraged but not required for voters at polling places, according to an executive order from Whitmer. All poll workers are required to wear masks.

There will be safety precautions in place at the polls, but elections officials have encouraged voters to go to their polling place in the mid-afternoon or mid-morning to avoid long lines. They also recommend absentee voting in the future as needed to avoid exposure to others at voting precincts. 

What safety precautions will be in place?

The Bureau of Elections sent guidance to all county and local clerks in Michigan in July. It recommends precincts require social distancing, do frequent cleaning and sanitizing of voting equipment and other high-touch surfaces, have hand sanitizer available for use right before and after voting, and provide masks for those who want to wear one but don’t have one. 

There may be a line outside voting precincts, as poll workers are encouraged to limit the number of people who can go inside polling places at once.

Poll workers checking ID will likely be wearing a face shield in addition to a face mask. They may ask voters to briefly lower their masks to check their photo ID, “but in most instances this will not be necessary,” the guidance reads.

Each voting precinct should have been given at least one can of disinfectant spray or a package of wipes, a gallon of hand sanitizer, 50 face masks, one box of gloves and five face shields. Pens and secrecy sleeves are supposed to be sanitized and shared equipment should be kept to a minimum.

Some precincts will have protective shields between election workers and voters and physical dividers between voting booths and around tabulators. Some will also have thermometers to check the temperature of election workers. Voters will not be screened for fever or any other coronavirus symptoms. 

Drive-thru voting may be available at your polling place, depending on the precinct and the equipment your local clerk is using for voting. Any precinct offering drive-thru voting also has to provide other ways to vote.

Election workers will be allowed to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing requirements for any poll watchers or challengers.

Can I bring my kids with me?

Yes, voters can bring children into the polling place and into the voting booth with them. 

Can I still vote absentee?

It is too late to mail in an absentee ballot — any ballot that reaches the clerk’s office after Election Day won’t be counted. Voters who have already requested an absentee ballot and have received it in the mail can fill it out and take it in to their clerk’s office or drop it in their local ballot drop box any time before 8 p.m. on Election Day. 

Voters can still technically vote absentee by going into their local clerk’s office on Election Day and requesting an absentee ballot. They can fill out the ballot and submit it there instead of going to their voting precinct.

I mailed in my absentee ballot but I am not sure if it made it there. How do I check?

Enter your information here to see if the clerk has received your ballot. Under “Absentee Voter Ballot Status” it will list the date the ballot was received. If no date is recorded under “Ballot Received,” the clerk has not received your ballot. 

My absentee ballot still hasn’t made it to the clerk. What should I do?

Go to your local clerk’s office and ask them to spoil your old ballot. The clerk will cancel your old ballot and issue you a new one, which you can fill out in person and submit at your clerk’s office. 

I have a felony record or was recently incarcerated. Can I vote?

Yes, Michigan is one of 16 states in which people, including those with felony convictions, regain their right to vote immediately upon being released from prison.

People incarcerated in jail or prison who are still waiting for their trial or arraignment are also eligible to vote. 

Those currently serving sentences in jail or prison are not eligible to vote. 

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Comments

Anonymous
Mon, 08/03/2020 - 9:24pm

Senior citizen Republicans should work the polls, since Republicans plan not to wear masks when they vote. Anyone who votes without a mask is a jerk, plain and simple, especially given everyone has the option to vote by using a dropbox.

Idk
Tue, 08/04/2020 - 3:01pm

That's a great idea! I see your hate, but hey'll all most likely be fine.

Michelle Hurd R...
Tue, 08/04/2020 - 10:39am

Nice summary of information. Story did miss mentioning that homeless people can vote too in Michigan. Amid the pandemic and financial struggles of the day, information on voting rights for our homeless population is more important then ever.

Idk
Tue, 08/04/2020 - 4:05pm

Thank you. Interesting point.

Lovin' it
Tue, 08/04/2020 - 3:56pm

"All registered voters in Michigan have the right to vote by mail. It's a safe way to vote and protect your health, and the process is secure and accurate.

To vote by mail, fill out the simple application located on this page, print and sign it, and then mail or email it to your local clerk (you can find their address and email here). When filling out the application, if you check the box to be added to the permanent absent voter list, you'll get an application mailed to you before every election. But there's no commitment. Even if you apply to vote by mail, you can change your mind and vote in person."

I checked the box to be added to the permanent absent voter list! Feels so good.

Now I can vote as soon as possible, why wait until November to vote Trump out? There's already way too much anxiety. Voting gives me a feeling of control.

I felt so good last week voting absentee for the first time in the primary that is happening today. I literally just put my ballot in the city clerk's drop box, no exposure to anyone who didn't want to wear a mask, no waiting in line, no dealing with slow and confused, misinformed poll workers and voters, no seeing all the issues for the first time while people are waiting for me to vote, no dealing with inclement weather, no rushing before or after work, no dealing with childcare or spouse having to juggle other commitments....

Of course Republicans hate everyone to have these conveniences all the time. More people will vote. When more people vote, Republicans lose. Sure they will whine that the increased numbers are proof of fraud, but the truth is that far too many Americans don't vote.

I hope I get my November general election ballot soon!

Another awesome new feature is that you can track your vote! I went online and saw that the city clerk received my ballot.

Benson rocks!

middle of the mit
Tue, 08/04/2020 - 5:56pm

Isn't it awesome?! I love it too! I watched as my grandparents filled out their absentee ballots a few years ago before they fled to warmer climes and I thought, wouldn't it be nice if everyone could do that. Thanks to voters, WE CAN!

And now Republicans have done what people say even pets don't do. They do do'ed where they eat. They have belittled and demonized mail in voting to the point where the olds don't want to use it. Now they have to do this.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1290692768675901440

“Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True. Florida’s Voting system has been cleaned up (we defeated Democrats attempts at change), so in Florida I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail!”
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

But you see? It is only OK when done in a Republican run State............Here is to no chads! Not to be mean to anyone named Chad.

LOL!!!!

Arjay
Wed, 08/05/2020 - 8:30am

“Why wait until November to vote trump out”? What, to get someone in that wants to defund the police? Someone who wants to give scads of free stuff to everyone whether they need it or not? Someone who gives “peaceful” protestors a free pass to riot, loot, and burn? No, that is not the orderly America that most people desire. And if you think Biden will last more than 2 months before the DNC decides that maybe people were right when they said Biden was a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic, so let’s elevate his progressive VP to POTUS, well, I think you will get quite a surprise. People already are screaming “why didn’t someone answer when I called 911?”.

Unfortunately, most great countries throughout history lasted 200 -300 years. We have already passed the bi-centenial, and see similarities to the Romans laying down and eating grapes while Rome burned.

middle of the mit
Wed, 08/05/2020 - 11:02am

If you would like to see what hyperbole looks like, that comment above is it!

Defunding the police movement isn't the same as what Republicans do when the defund everything under the sun except the police and the military. Those entities get whatever they want even if they don't ask for or need it! Did I just check two off your list Arjay?

Peaceful protesters given a free pass to riot? Don't you understand the difference between peaceful and rioting?

https://nypost.com/2020/07/25/new-wall-of-military-veterans-protect-prot...

What about the wall of moms or the dads with leaf blowers?

Apparently your idea of an orderly citizenry means carrying around Assault rifles, yelling in cops faces and barging into capitol buildings?

If you think Biden is a couple sandwiches short of a picnic, what is Trump? He is a stable genius! And Biden isn't President.....yet, so there is no VP to elevate. Progressive or not.

Who is complaining about 911? I thought the AR brigade didn't need the cops. Aren't they too slow for your trigger finger?

The only people that are laying around letting the country burn are the ones that aren't doing anything about a pandemic because they are too busy making money off of others misery.

https://politicalwire.com/2020/07/29/kodak-stock-trades-surged-before-an...

Reid Wilson notes that Kodak stock volume has ranged from 52,000 to 215,000 shares per day since July 1

On Monday, the day before President Trump tapped the former film giant to make drug ingredients, 1,645,000 shares traded hands.

https://politicalwire.com/2020/08/04/kodak-stock-surge-under-sec-investi...

“The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the circumstances around Eastman Kodak’s announcement of a $765 million government loan to make drugs at its U.S. factories,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“News of the loan last week caused Kodak’s shares to rise as high as $60, before falling to about $15 on Monday due to a dilution in the shares. Amid the heightened volatility, trading volume has surged. The price spike briefly produced a potential windfall for company executives who owned stock-option grants, some of which were granted on July 27, the day before the loan became public.”
-------------------------------------------------------------

That is just a taste of the grift going on right now.

Arjay
Wed, 08/05/2020 - 8:30am

“Why wait until November to vote trump out”? What, to get someone in that wants to defund the police? Someone who wants to give scads of free stuff to everyone whether they need it or not? Someone who gives “peaceful” protestors a free pass to riot, loot, and burn? No, that is not the orderly America that most people desire. And if you think Biden will last more than 2 months before the DNC decides that maybe people were right when they said Biden was a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic, so let’s elevate his progressive VP to POTUS, well, I think you will get quite a surprise. People already are screaming “why didn’t someone answer when I called 911?”.

Unfortunately, most great countries throughout history lasted 200 -300 years. We have already passed the bi-centenial, and see similarities to the Romans laying down and eating grapes while Rome burned.

middle of the mit
Tue, 08/04/2020 - 5:26pm

Slightly off topic but not really. Something I saw earlier today.

https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bffadb5200eb76dc814cb669efd7469838a...

Welcome to Freedom Cafe
We trust you to make your own choice in wearing a mask. And in the same spirit of individual liberty we allow our staff to make their own choices about the safety procedures they choose to use to prepare and serve your meals.

We encourage employees to wash their hands after using the bathroom, but understand that some people may be allergic to certain soaps and others prefer not to wash their hands. It is not our place to tell them what to do.

We understand that you may be used to chicken that has been cooked to 165 degrees. We do have to respect that some of our cooks have seen a meme or You Tube video saying that 100 degrees is fine and we do not want to encroach on their beliefs.

Some servers will want to touch your food as they serve it. There is no reason that a healthy person can not touch your food. We will take their word for it they are healthy and clean.

Water temperature and detergent are highly personal choices, and we allow our dishwashing team to decide how they will wash the utensils that you will put in your mouth.

Some of you may get sick, but almost everyone survives food poisoning. We think you will agree that it is a small price to pay for the sweet freedom of nobody telling you what to do.- and especially not for the silly reason of keeping strangers safe.

Thank you.

Management
-------------------------------------

Why does that have to be snark? Haven't you heard these reasonings before?