Michigan presidential primary: Early voting begins in many communities Feb. 17

For the first time in a major statewide election, Michigan voters will have the opportunity to cast their ballots through early, in-person voting for the state's presidential primary.

Thanks to a ballot initiative passed by voters in 2022, municipalities in Michigan are required to hold at least nine days of early voting for each election, with early voting locations mandated to remain open for at least eight hours on those days. For the Michigan presidential primary, communities are required to begin early voting by Saturday, Feb. 17, and it runs through Sunday, Feb. 25. Election Day is Tuesday, Feb. 27.

Here’s a primer on early voting in Michigan.

What exactly is early voting?

Early voting is what it sounds like: Registered voters can visit an early voting location, fill out their ballots and cast them before Election Day. For voters who want to cast their ballots in person but may have time constraints on Election Day itself, early voting allows another option, said Promote the Vote Michigan Election Protection Director Shira Roza.

“One day of in-person voting on a Tuesday doesn't work for everyone — for example, voters with limited access to transportation, voters with caregiving responsibilities, or multiple jobs,” Roza said. “So at least nine days of true in-person early voting makes casting a ballot that much more accessible for all Michigan voters.”

As mentioned above, communities in Michigan are required to hold at least nine days of early voting, but state law allows for up to 29 days of early voting, if local election officials opt to add more dates.

How is early voting different from absentee voting?

While Michigan also offers absentee voting, early voting is different for a few reasons — unlike with absentee ballots, at early voting locations, ballots are placed directly into tabulators after voters fill them out, whereas absentee ballots are returned through the mail, at a secure drop box location, or at a local clerk’s office.

Additionally, absentee ballots can also be “spoiled" after they are returned up to 5 p.m. on the second Friday before an election. Ballots cast at early voting locations cannot be spoiled. Spoiling an absentee ballot cancels its submission and allows the voter to cast a new ballot.

If voters have received an absentee ballot already, they can insert those ballots into a tabulator at an early voting site, but those ballots cannot be spoiled either, according to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office.

How can I vote early? And where can I find my early voting location?

First, you must be registered to vote in Michigan. Within 15 days of an election, eligible Michiganders must register with proof of residency at their local clerk’s office. In some communities, early voting sites may also be at a local clerk’s office.

To find your early voting location and its operating hours, go to the Michigan Voter Information Center at michigan.gov/vote. Here, you can also find your local clerk’s office if you still need to register to vote.

Once you’re registered and you know where you’re going, you can visit your early voting location and cast your ballot.

Looking for more on Michigan’s elections this year? Check out our voter guide, subscribe to our elections newsletter and always feel free to share your thoughts in a letter to the editor.

Contact Arpan Lobo: alobo@freepress.com. Follow him on X (Twitter) @arpanlobo.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan voters can vote early in 2024 presidential primary: here's how