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Absent voter ballot returns already top 2016 total

Election workers needed to assist with mailed ballot increase, polling places

Absent voter ballot numbers continue to grow steadily ahead of the August 4 state primary, with more than 1.8 million requested and more than 600,000 already returned. The total number of absent voter ballots cast in the August 2016 state primary was just 484,094.

"The volume of absentee ballot requests and returns we're seeing underscores the near universal enthusiasm Michigan voters share for casting their ballot in a way that is safe, secure and convenient," said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. "I am encouraged that this enthusiasm remains unaffected by attempts to spread misinformation about the integrity and security of voting by mail. The numbers make it clear that voters trust our system and are eager to participate in it."

The 2016 primary was held before voters in 2018 amended the state constitution to allow all Michigan voters to cast ballots from home. The first statewide election after that amendment passed was the March 10, 2020, presidential primary, which occurred before there were any known cases of COVID-19 in Michigan. In that primary 1 million absent-voter ballots were issued, barely half of the 1.8 million already issued for August 4.

More election workers are needed to process the increase in absent-voter ballots, staff polling places, and serve in place of older or immunocompromised Michiganders who have done so in the past but cannot this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. To ensure safety for election workers and voters, the Michigan Bureau of Elections has provided gloves, disposable masks, spray disinfectant or disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer and face shields, as well as protocols for hygiene and social distancing to all election jurisdictions. All election workers will wear masks and voters are strongly encouraged to do the same.

Secretary Benson encouraged Michiganders to serve as paid election workers through the Department of State's Democracy MVP initiative, which has already recruited more than 4,500 interested election workers. Anyone who registered to vote in Michigan, as well as all 16- and 17-year-olds, are eligible to be an election worker, and can sign up to do so at

"Now more than ever, election workers are our most valuable players in the effort to help our elections run smoothly and ensure every vote is counted," said Secretary Benson.

Voters who already have a ballot at home are encouraged as soon as possible to fill them out, sign the back of the envelope, and then drop them off at their local election clerk's office or ballot dropbox. Clerk information can be found at Voters are encouraged to call before visiting to determine hours and if the office is operating by appointment.

Visiting the clerk's office is the fastest way to be issued an absent voter ballot, which can be voted and returned to the clerk in the same visit. Applications for absent voter ballots and accessible absent voter ballots are also available at Michigan.Gov/Vote.

Registered voters can vote early at their clerk office now through August 3, or at their polling place on Election Day, August 4. Those who haven't registered can register and vote in one trip to their clerk office now through 8 p.m. on Election Day, August 4. Within two weeks of the election, registration can no longer be done online or by mail.

"Voters can choose the way they prefer to vote this year and be absolutely confident it will be safe and secure," said Benson.

A side by side comparison of the absent voter ballot data 14 days before the 2020 and 2016 primary elections is below and a breakdown of the numbers by jurisdiction is available online.   

Number of Applications Received
Number of Ballots Issued
Number of Ballots Returned


14 Days Before Election (July 19, 2016)


14 Days Before Election (July 21, 2020)

*The 2016 number of ballots issued is greater than the number of applications received as it represents all ballots issued, including replacement ballots for those who requested to spoil their first.

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