Michigan's election has more than 77,000 spoiled ballots. Here's what that means.

Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press
·2 min read

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Secretary of State's Office says there were 77,483 spoiled ballots associated with the presidential election in Michigan as of Tuesday morning.

But the number, which drew attention when it was reported by CNN, requires some context, said Tracy Wimmer, a spokesperson for the agency. It includes ballots spoiled because of printing errors and ones voters intentionally spoiled so they could fill out their absentee ballots again, she said.

"We do not have a breakdown on spoiled reasons, but the biggest thing to focus on is that spoiled does not mean rejected," Wimmer said. "In no instance with a spoiled ballot does that mean someone did not vote, unless they actively chose not to."

Wimmer said the major reasons for spoiled ballots are:

  • Printing errors discovered prior to the ballot reaching the voter. There were several thousand of those, spokesman Jake Rollow said. The ballot is spoiled and a new one is printed and issued to the voter, who is still able to vote.

  • The voter decided to change their vote or thinks they might have made a mistake after voting absentee. They go to their local clerk to spoil the ballot sent in earlier and fill out a new one.

  • The voter is alerted to a signature issue on the ballot by their clerk and when they go in to remedy the error, they elect to spoil the ballot and cast a new one.

  • The voter is concerned their ballot will not reach them or the clerk in time because of mail delays. They elect to go in person to their clerk’s office, request to spoil their original ballot and receive a new one.

Michigan is one of only a few states where voters who have sent in an absentee ballot can go to the clerk and retrieve it, up to the day before Election Day, spoil it, and fill out a new ballot. Reasons can vary but they include voters who change their minds about who they want to support and those who realize or suspect they made an error the first time around.

Ballots can also be rejected because of voter error. For example, ballots are rejected if a voter marks an intention to vote straight ticket and then votes for candidates from both major political parties. Those types of errors are not detected until officials start counting the ballots. Counting began for absentee ballots at 7 a.m. local time Tuesday morning and will begin for same-day ballots as soon as the polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Follow reporter Paul Egan on Twitter @paulegan4

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Spoiled ballots: Michigan has 77,000. What does that mean?