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Michigan

Michigan has the opportunity to further strengthen its election system by codifying temporary reforms enacted in 2020 and implementing other voter-centric reforms. In particular, we recommend that the State make statewide drop boxes and prepaid postage permanent. In addition, by passing legislation to enact automatic voter registration, risk-limiting audits, and ballot tracking improvements, Michigan can continue to build upon the fine work done in 2020. As always, while policy is important, effective implementation is just as important.

As of 2021....

No Excuse Required

No Excuse Required

No excuse to vote by mail

Online Mail Ballot Application

Online Mail Ballot Application

Apply for mail ballot online

Robust Ballot Return Option

Robust Ballot Return Option

U.S. mail, drop boxes, vote centers, and more

Prepaid Postage

Prepaid Postage

Postage-paid return envelopes provided

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Accepts ballots postmarked by Election Day

Ballot Tracking

Ballot Tracking

Online method to check ballot status

Signature Verification

Signature Verification

Voter signature verified before ballot is counted

Cure Process

Cure Process

Ability to correct issues so ballot can be counted

Preprocessing

Preprocessing

Election official may process ballot before Election Day

Opportunities

Michigan’s current permanent absentee option available in some localities is not what we would consider a true permanent absentee option, as voters are only sent applications, not ballots, for each election. This increases barriers to the ballot box and increases paperwork (and cost!) for both the voter and the localities. Switching to a true permanent option and making the list statewide would increase voter access and save the state significant expense by cutting down on the requests they need to process, with localities saving an average of $1 for every request they no longer need to process.
Michigan has already expanded drop boxes as a result of the pandemic, and should make these return options permanent fixtures for all future elections. Additionally, creating vote centers that any voter in the county can vote at and allowing voters to drop off their absentee ballots at polling places would further lessen the reliance on the postal service and increase voter convenience and confidence.
While Michigan has reimbursed counties that have decided to prepay postage for the 2020 elections, the state should make prepaid postage statewide and permanent for all future elections. Guaranteeing prepaid postage is a voter-centric reform that removes an economic barrier to the vote.
Accepting ballots with Election Day postmarks is a best practice to ensure that voters are given all options to vote their ballot in a timely manner. Current law allows for ballots to be requested up to 4 days before the election, and that is most likely too short of a timespan for a ballot request to be processed, mailed, voted, and returned by mail by the close of polls. We recommend that not only does a state allow the physical postmark on a ballot, but that it also integrates into the USPS system for electronic postmarks to serve as validation that a ballot was mailed on time.
Ballot tracking software such as Ballot Scout or BallotTrax can be a very cost-effective tool to improve Michigan’s current ballot tracking system by allowing voters to track their ballot much like an Amazon package. An expanded notification system helps keep rejection rates low and increases voter confidence and participation.
Processing mail ballots to get them ready for counting before election day will help Michigan get faster election results. Michigan allowed some counties to do preprocessing as a result of the pandemic; however, the State should expand preprocessing to at least 7 days and make it permanent for all future elections in order to reap the benefits.
Voters should have sufficient time to correct any issues with their ballot In the event that a voter’s ballot is rejected. Michigan’s current cure deadline of one day before election day leaves many voters behind. We recommend allowing voters to cure any issues for 5 days after the election.

Recent Legislation

As of May 26, 2021

Michigan made significant electoral progress in 2020. S.B. 757 established the option for municipalities with over 25k residents to process ballots the day before the election with permission. H.B. 5141 established an option for municipal clerks to form combined absentee voter counting boards. In addition, the Secretary of State ordered that absentee ballot applications for the 2020 election cycle be sent to all registered voters for both the August and November elections. The Governor also passed Executive Order 2020-27 to prepay postage for the May primary. Later, the Secretary of State reimbursed the counties that chose to prepay postage for absentee ballots.
The Michigan Legislature has not yet passed relevant legislation to codify these temporary reforms in its 2021 session; however, it still has the opportunity to do so since the session doesn’t end until December. For instance, bills that would establish a permanent absentee application list and alter processing deadlines and absentee counting board requirements have currently passed the House.