A Look Straight Tickets and Absentee Ballot Mistakes

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Seasoned voters will notice the return of the Straight Party voting this year. In 2015 the Michigan legislature ended the practice after 127 years. That legislative effort became law in 2018 - the same year 66 percent of voters overturned the Michigan legislature with ballot initiative 18-3. As a result, voters can once again vote straight ticket.

But what happens if a straight-ticket voter accidentally fills in a bubble for a partisan candidate? Does it invalidate, or spoil, the ballot? 

No, according to Katrina Ritchey, Deputy Clerk for the City of Saline. 

“When that occurs, the tabulator takes the individual vote for that office, and takes the straight party vote for the offices you did not fill in,” Ritchey said. 

Apart from allowing for absent-minded redundancies on the 21-inch, four-column sheet, the flexibility to bubble-in down-ballot permits voters to split their tickets, allowing Republicans or Democrats to cross over and vote for someone else in a particular race. Of course, the same is true for a member of another party, like for the rare Natural Law voter to support a Congressional candidate who doesn’t resolve political issues through transcendental meditation (no Natural Law candidate is running for Congress).

Straight party voting does not affect candidates in the non-partisan section, which includes candidates running for local office.

With the abundance of first-time absentee voters this election cycle, other mistakes are bound to happen at home, which might spoil a ballot. Votes for the wrong person, votes for too many people in a particular section, or writing-in the wrong candidate are typical examples: Such mistakes should not be corrected with scribbles or white out. 

“That will cause an error through the tabulator,” remarks Ritchey. “It’s best to contact your clerk’s office and request to spoil the ballot.” 

If that happens, an absentee voter takes his spoiled ballot back to City Hall and exchanges it for a new ballot—the spoiled ballot will not be counted.

They’ll exchange it if you spill your coffee on it, too.

As the election nears, the Michigan Secretary of State suggested hand-delivering your votes to your local clerk or drop-off box. 

On October 16, the Michigan Court of Appeals blocked a 14-day ballot extension, disallowing ballots postmarked by November 2nd to be received and counted by Nov. 16. Because of the court’s most recent ruling, all ballots must be received by the Clerk’s Office on Election Day: November 3rd. If you prefer to drop-off your ballot, see the list below to determine where your clerk’s office is; you can only return your ballot to the clerk's office in the city or township where you live.

  • Saline: Drop boxes are located in the lot behind Comerica Bank, and at City Hall. Residents may also drop their ballots off inside City Hall during regular business hours. 
  • Bridgewater Township: the secured drop box is at town hall: 10990 Clinton Road
  • Lodi Township: two drop boxes at 3755 Pleasant Lake Road. One is built into the building, and one is adjacent to it near the front door. 
  • Pittsfield Township: The drop box is located just outside the building at 6201 W. Michigan Ave.
  • Saline Township: 4254 Arkona Road (The secure ballot box is on the front porch of the township clerk’s home)
  • York Township: Just inside the first set of doors at 11560 Stony Creek Road

Or, to find your Clerk's office, go to mi.gov/vote and select the "Where are my clerk's offices?" link for more details.

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