Michigan has 1M unreturned absentee ballots. And mail delays are common.

To date, 3.1 million Michigan voters have requested absentee ballots, and 2.1 million have been returned. (Bridge photo by Monica Williams)

LANSING — One million Michigan residents have not returned requested absentee ballots, and experts say it’s probably too late to mail them back in time to be counted for the Nov. 3 election. 

Because of postal delays, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson instead urged voters Tuesday to drop off ballots at local clerk’s offices or a drop box.


“We are too close to Election Day, and the right to vote is too important, to rely on the Postal Service to deliver absentee ballots on time,” Benson said in a statement. 

“Citizens who already have an absentee ballot should sign the back of the envelope and hand-deliver it to their city or township clerk’s office or ballot drop box as soon as possible. Voters who haven’t yet received their ballot should go to their clerk’s office to request it in person. They can fill it out, sign the envelope and submit it all in one trip.”

Election officials across the state are sharing similar warnings, urging Michiganders to return ballots in person in the final week before Election Day, when they can also choose to vote at the polls instead. 

The U.S. Postal Service has urged voters to mail in their ballots no later than today as a “common-sense measure” to ensure they arrive by Election Day. 

The warning follows a recent report that found southeast Michigan has the worst on-time delivery rate in the nation, with 70 percent of mail delivered within five days compared to 86 percent nationwide.

To date, 3.1 million Michiganders have requested absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 election, according to the Secretary of State. About 2.1 million have returned ballots that clerks have screened to ensure their signatures match state records, as required.

You can track the status of your ballot on the Secretary of State’s website. 

Some of those outstanding absentee ballots may already be in the mail, but with fears of delays persisting, voters who have not yet sent theres in yet should just “take that variable out of the equation” said Secretary of State spokesperson Jake Rollow.

Voters who have requested but not yet received an absentee ballot should also consider visiting their local election clerk to get another one, Rollow said. 

“If they requested it two days ago and it hasn’t  arrived, sure they can give it a day or two,” he said. “But if they requested it more than a week ago and it hasn’t arrived, they should head over to their clerk’s office. It’s just to close and there’s no reason to have that uncertainty looming.”

Detroit, in particular, struggled to keep pace with the massive volume of absentee ballot requests, Rollow said, but he noted the state has helped the city hire more than 100 additional staffers, some of whom have already been working to process requests at the TCF Center.

“My understanding is that Detroit at this point is basically caught up, if not completely caught up,” he said. 

“At this point, if you [live in Detroit and] haven't received your absentee ballot and you asked for it a while ago, the best solution for you to ensure that you're able to vote and vote absentee is to just head over to the clerk's office” or one of the city’s 23 satellite locations, Rollow said. 

“Detroiters can head over to those, request their ballot in person, fill it out and submit it right there.”

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Tue, 10/27/2020 - 1:48pm

I do not think the branch covidians counted on their followers not knowing how to do absentee ballots. I thought this would be problem because it is not normal for many who never voted absentee before. The branch covidians would have been better off scaring their voters to do in-person voting.

MarySue E
Wed, 10/28/2020 - 8:21am

They can still vote in-person or use the drop boxes.

Jake K
Wed, 10/28/2020 - 10:27am

Every year tax returns are due by April 15. There's no uproar about any difficulties in meeting that deadline. Why is submitting an absentee ballot any different? Red herring to make news.

Thu, 10/29/2020 - 1:12pm

Taxes need to be postmarked by April 15th in order to be considered filed on time. The difference here is Republicans are arguing that ballots need to be RECEIVED by November 3rd, as opposed to postmarked. I agree, it should be the same as taxes and a ballot should only need to be postmarked by election day to be counted.

Wed, 10/28/2020 - 1:45pm

USPS is being clogged by needless and repeated campaign mail. Everyday for the past two weeks there is 4-6 leaflets/ flyers delivered via USPS.

Geoffrey Owen
Fri, 10/30/2020 - 9:04pm

Track your ballot. If it doesn't show as received (It is Friday evening) then you have two choices. Go to the clerks office on Monday and Vote or go to your polling place on Tuesday and vote. If your mailed ballot shows up your in person vote won't be counted. We have had four years to fix these issues and our legislators only just pushed a "Bipartisan" solution last month. 2.5 million mailed ballots and they can't begin looking at them until Monday. It makes no sense that they can't be processed as they are received. This would allow for errors to be corrected. The sham legislation allows no time for correcting errors. Of course we know that the fewer votes that are cast the better the results for one of the parties.