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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Michigan voting 2020: masks, guns, ID, straight ticket, what you should know

masks at the polls

Update: Judge: Michigan can’t ban open carry guns on Election Day

The polls open in fewer than two weeks, but Michigan’s Nov. 3 general election is already underway.

Election officials expect a record-breaking turnout of more than 5 million, nearly two-thirds of all registered voters. More than 1.5 million voters already have cast absentee ballots.


As Election Day approaches, Bridge Michigan is asking readers for help informing coverage. Over the last few days, you sent us questions about how voting works, what could go wrong, and what’s happening in the run up to the election. 

We’ve got the answers. Please continue to tell us what you want to know here.

Are voters required to wear masks in polling places?

No, though they are encouraged to do so. Wearing masks are proven to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Election workers are required to wear masks inside polling places under an order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Masks also are required for poll challengers who are appointed by parties and other organizations to watchdog the electoral process and poll watchers who choose to come observe polling places.

Each precinct will be given masks, gloves and face shields for poll workers and be required to regularly disinfect high-touch surfaces. 

How many people can be inside a polling place at one time?

The Bureau of Elections recommends limiting the number of people inside polling places so that voters and election workers can maintain 6 feet of distance at all times. Tables, voting machines and the ballot tabulator are supposed to be spread out so that people can maintain social distance throughout the day. 

Elections are administered at the local level in Michigan, so the reality may vary geographically on Election Day. 

Can people carry guns in a polling place?

October 27: Judge: Michigan can’t ban open carry guns on Election Day

As of now, people cannot carry guns openly within 100 feet of polling places on Election Day due to guidance issued by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. 

People who have concealed carry licenses are allowed to concealed carry, except in buildings that already ban it such as schools and churches (which are commonly used as polling places.)

However, guns rights groups have pledged to challenge that rule in court, arguing Benson doesn’t have the authority to issue such a ban. 

Do I need a photo ID to vote at the polls?

No. If you have a photo ID, you will be asked to show it to poll workers when you check in (the worker may ask you to briefly lower your mask to show your face to check against the ID). If you do not, you will have to sign an affidavit saying you don’t have a photo ID with you. 

“Signing the affidavit is the same as showing your ID,” a Secretary of State spokesperson told Bridge earlier this year. Your ballot will not be treated any differently than if you had an ID with you.

What happens to a ballot if it’s dropped at the wrong precinct?

First, do NOT drop your absentee ballot off at your voting precinct. 

Absentee ballots should be returned to a ballot drop box or the city clerk’s office in the city that issued your ballot. If you show up at your precinct, election workers will reroute you there. 

If you’re voting in person, check where your voting precinct is by entering your voter information here. You can vote only at your designated precinct. 

If you accidentally drop your absentee ballot off at a clerk’s office or ballot drop box in a city that you aren’t registered to vote in, it won’t be counted. Election officials recommend you go get the ballot from the clerk where you dropped it and take it to the correct clerk, or ask your clerk to spoil your ballot and cast a new one in your city. 

I requested an absentee ballot and haven’t received it yet, even though my clerk’s office indicated that it sent it. What’s going on and what should I do?

It’s not clear exactly why you haven’t received your ballot, but a recent report indicated that southeast Michigan is experiencing postal delays. 

Contact your local clerk and ask about your options. You may need to “spoil” your ballot — essentially cancel it — and request a new one. If you want to avoid dealing with the Postal Service, you can request a ballot in person at your clerk’s office, fill it out there, and turn it in all in one trip. 

What happens if I fill in one of the bubbles for a “straight party ticket” but then select people from other parties for certain offices?

Michigan voters can choose to vote on a “straight party ticket” in the November general election.

It should be the first option on your ballot. If you fill in the bubble for a political party under the straight ticket section, that will be the default choice for all of the partisan offices throughout the ballot — any candidate that has a political party listed under their name. 

If you then choose any candidate of the opposite party, that vote will override your straight party vote for that office. 

For example, if you vote Republican under the straight party option but then fill out the bubble next to Sen. Gary Peters’ name, you will have voted for President Donald Trump for president and Peters for Senate. 

The straight-party option will not apply to the nonpartisan portion of the ballot, including candidates for state Supreme Court, statewide ballot initiatives or local ballot questions. To vote for those offices, fill out the bubble next to the candidate of your choice. If left blank, you will not have voted for those offices. 

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