By Natasha Robinson, MPCA Communications Specialist
My voting place for the past few elections has been either a firehouse, a community center, or a church in my neighborhood. So when I realized that I had scheduled a trip out of state right around this year’s Election Day, November 6, I was confused about where I would actually be able to vote. Then I discovered that I could vote from the comfort of my own home due to my special circumstance.
Yesterday, I received my first absent voter ballot in the mail. I had done some research online in September, printed out an absent voter application from my county clerk’s office, and mailed it in. The clerk replied to me shortly after saying I could expect my ballot by mail after October 1.
Any registered voter meeting one of the following criteria can apply for an absentee ballot, according to the Michigan Secretary of State website:
- Age 60 years old or older
- Unable to vote without assistance at the polls
- Expecting to be out of town on election day
- In jail awaiting arraignment or trial
- Unable to attend the polls due to religious reasons
- Appointed to work as an election inspector in a precinct outside of your precinct of residence
One disclaimer, however, is that a person who registers to vote by mail has to vote in person in the first election in which he or she participates, except overseas voters, voters who are disabled, or voters who are 60 years of age or older. An absent voter ballot can be requested for any election being held.
The ballot I received in the mail looks just like the ones you see at firehouses, community centers, and churches that function as polling locations. It felt really good to open my mailbox and see the envelope, and to know that I have an opportunity to count as one among the millions of people in the United States who will vote this year to elect/relect government officials and decide on proposals. It feels as liberating as voting in my first election while in college when I had to drive two hours back home, from Detroit to Kalamazoo, making it to my polling location just before closing time to cast my ballot.
I like the fact that I can be engaged in the democratic process without foregoing my vacation, and the biggest burden I have in the process is paying 45 cents for a stamp to send the application letter, and 45 cents for a stamp to send back the completed ballot. It’s worth it to me to make sure that my future as a United States citizen doesn’t just rest on the hands of others, but that I take ownership too.
The deadline to register to vote in Michigan for the upcoming election is October 9. To see if you’re already registered, visit the Michigan Voter Information Center.
To find out where your county clerk’s office is, use Michigan’s Find Your Clerk tool. You can complete this absent voter application and mail it in or drop it off if that’s convenient for you. You may also write and mail a letter with your request, stating your reason for requesting the absent voter ballot and by signing the letter. The request has to be received by your clerk no later than 2 p.m. on the Saturday before Election Day (November 3 this year).
Then, you have until 8 p.m. on Election Day to complete the ballot and return it to the clerk’s office to have your vote counted. So vote, even if you’re not able to get to a physical polling place on Election Day.